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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



PSYCHE'S LAMP 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

THE MAKING OF HUMANITY 

Demy 8vo. 12s. 6d. net. 

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LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LIMITED 



PSYCHE'S LAMP 

A REVALUATION OF PYSCHOLOGICAL 

PRINCIPLES AS FOUNDATION 

OF ALL THOUGHT 



ROBERT BRIFFAULT 




LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNW1N LTD. 
RUSKIN HOUSE, 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C. i 
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 



First published in 1921 



(All rights reserved) 



Ed. /Psych. 
Library 

BF 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTION 7 

CHAPTER 

I. ACTION AND PURPOSE 23 

II. ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION . . .37 

III. FEELING AND COGNITION 56 

IV. DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION . . . .82 
V. ESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION . . .108 

VI. THE ORGANISM AND FOCAL CONSCIOUSNESS . 125 

VII. CONTROL AND FREEDOM 155 

VIII. THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY . . .185 

IX. CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT . . 203 

X. THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY . . .217 

POSTSCRIPT 237 



PSYCHE'S LAMP 



INTRODUCTION 

Ax a time when so much in our estimates, conceptions, 
opinions, calls for fundamental reconsideration we are 
reminded that all thought and discussion, to whatever 
aspect of confronting problems, social, political, ethical, 
vital and personal, they may be directed, posit psycho- 
logical premisses. Every exploration of the stream of 
human affairs leads us to its fountain-head, the soul of 
man ; and it is upon our view of its nature and operation 
that all our evaluations must finally rest. European 
thought, on emerging from the quaint rectilinear rigidities 
of scholasticism, was compelled to regard epistemology, 
the theory of cognition, as the propaedeutic to all other 
thought. But far more is involved in the questions that 
press upon the modern mind than mere speculative 
curiosity ; and it is not our view of the operation of our 
cognitive powers alone, but of the springs and determinants 
of all action and of all thought, of all desire and endeavour, 
which, it is borne in upon us, is implicit in all our judg- 
ments. In the darkness and confusion of a human world 
under reconstruction, where immemorial landmarks lie 
strewn and buried under the debris of collapsed super- 
structures, we shall vainly endeavour to thread our way 
to any purpose unless we can pierce the obscurity by the 
light of Psyche's lamp. 

It is in some measure from a sense of that need that 
reflective persons are drawn with renewed interest to 
psychological problems, and that many who are unaddicted 
to the sciences and to whom the very uncouthness of their 



8 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

language is repellent are disposed to relent from that 
attitude in favour of the science of the soul. 

The zeal of those enthusiastic inquirers meets, I fear, 
with much discouragement and disappointment. Their 
reports are in general most disconcerting. I have heard 
some declare that there is no such thing as a science 
of psychology ; that one might reach deep enough in the 
study of its accredited textbooks and find little ; and 
concerning such fragmentary and conflicting views as are 
current they recalled the saying of Xenophanes, ' SO'KOC 
S'tVi iraai Ttrvicrai ' opinion, ' doxy,' is over all. 

The fact is that psychology is not an organized science. 
Any department of inquiry becomes an organized science 
only under the unifying and vitalizing influence of some 
principle of interpretation which touches its basic con- 
ceptions and informs each isolated fact with a significance 
that knits it with all others into an organic whole. And, 
since primitively the human mind leaves no blanks in 
its scheme of things, any such basic interpretation can 
only be attained by violently displacing principles and 
conceptions previously accredited. Thus astronomy first 
became an organized science by the overthrow of the 
geocentric system and the enunciation of the Keplerian 
laws ; dynamics arose from the downfall of the Aristotelian 
dogma of motion and the formulation of the laws of 
Galilei ; chemistry with Lavoisier's exposure of the 
doctrine of phlogistic substance and his explanation of 
oxydation. Biology came into being by the collapse of 
the dogma of creation ; though, failing a consistent 
view of the mode of operation of evolution, it remains 
in the Copernican, and has not yet reached the Keplerian 
phase of development. Physiology and psychology have 
not yet become organized sciences at all. They are 
merely aggregates of disjointed theories and observations 
which, however valuable in themselves, afford no view 
of the general character of the phenomena which they 
investigate. 



INTRODUCTION 9 

Is it mere coincidence that the natural sciences have 
developed in the order of the remoteness of their subject- 
matter from the centre of human interest, and therefore 
of human prejudice, from man himself ; first conquering 
the distant stars, then the physical world, then the world 
of organic life, and remaining at last held up by the 
problems of man himself, his organism, his soul ? Is it 
the intrinsic difficulty of the task or the force of established 
prejudice which constitutes the increasing obstacle ? 

There have been controversies in abundance, but no 
revolutions in the realm of psychological science ; no 
hieratic myth, no geocentric theory or doctrine of creation, 
has been finally relegated to limbo. Paralogisms such, 
to take but one instance, as ' the unity of the Ego,' which 
was reduced to tatters over a century ago by the critique 
of Kant, recur serenely as the leit-motiv of official teaching 
in our great English universities in the present year of 
grace. Is it plausible to suppose that while in every 
other science progress has only been possible by the 
sweeping away of primitive conceptions, here alone, of 
all domains of knowledge, the human intellect has from 
the first seized the outlines of truth so infallibly that 
no occasion could arise to alter them ? When we con- 
sider the genesis of psychological science from theological 
ontology and scholastic epistemology, the academic 
seclusion in which she has long been nurtured, in close 
association with her confederate, the official Science of 
Virtue, it may be suspected that in even greater measure 
than in other fields of enquiry, the obstacles in her path 
are not merely the rocks and natural accidents of the 
ground, but walls and fences and artificial rockeries 
raised by pious hands. And it can cause us little surprise 
that the science of the soul has in general picked her steps 
amid those venerable impediments with beseeming caution 
and delicacy. 

The methodical psychologist meets with his first per- 
plexity as soon as he attempts to . define the province 



10 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of his science. To define the ' province ' of a science 
is not a matter of very vital importance ; for knowledge 
is essentially one, and every aspect and portion of it 
interweaves with, and bears upon, all others ; such 
arbitrary subdivisions as we may choose to establish 
being essentially devices of systematic convenience. One 
would think to hear some speak that a science is a sort 
of Imperialistic State, the frontiers of which must needs 
be diplomatically delimitated on the map of knowledge, 
or that it is some game of ball, of which the rules are 
to be laid down in detail and honourably observed. One 
psychologist says to another, ' That is not psychology,' 
much as one might say, ' You're not playing the game ; 
that isn't cricket.' A quite abnormal degree of importance 
attaches here to this business of denning the right and 
proper sphere of the science, an importance arising out 
of the questionable situation of psychology on the border- 
land of what are traditionally regarded as two wholly 
disparate spheres of human knowledge the physical and 
the metaphysical. That division itself, the expression 
of a metaphysical dogma, is, I venture to consider, of no 
more essential significance than any other subdivision 
of human enquiry. The repudiation of metaphysics, 
whether in science or in life, can never mean anything 
else than the assumption of inconsidered, and therefore 
fantastically false, metaphysics. Physical science, coming 
as she does at every turn in contact with metaphysical 
questions, is like all other sciences, compelled to posit 
metaphysical postulates. Newton himself for all his 
' hypotheses nonfingo ' teems with metaphysical doctrine ; 
and modern physics is three parts metaphysical. 

In the physical sciences the pretence of eluding 
metaphysical questions may, however, be plausibly 
enough maintained, for their outlook is sufficiently 
characterized by the forms of physical experience. 
But when psychology, ambitious of following the 
example, likewise protests her unconcern with ontology, 



INTRODUCTION 11 

the profession is not at all so easy, is in fact desperately 
impracticable. For the very enterprise upon which she 
is embarked, the exploration of the inner world of mind, 
posits a stupendous ontological dogma, namely, that 
there is a distinct and self-contained world of mind 
separated from all else by the unbridgeable abyss of 
substantial disparity, and coextensive with conscious 
experience. 

That dogma, it is to be noted, did not in the first instance 
arise full-blown out of the epistemological grounds on 
which it has since come to rely for its justification. Long 
before the latter became susceptible of distinct enunciation 
the notion of the soul as a double of the living body, 
suggested chiefly by dream experience, had become 
immemorially established in primitive human thought. 
The doctrine of substantial dissimilarity, elaborated in 
Neoplatonic theosophy and Patristic theology, was first 
set forth with uncompromising emphasis by Descartes, 
the first writer who, in modern Europe, may be said 
to have initiated a separate science of psychology. When 
it is realized that no man has the remotest conception 
of what a ' substance ' is, we may estimate the audacity 
of laying down the existence of two distinct substances 
differing in their essential nature, that is, in that about 
which we know absolutely nothing. The dogmatism of 
Descartes's procedure is displayed in the anticlimax which 
it reached in his solution of the consequent question, 
' Where should the distinct substance of mind be con- 
sidered to begin ? ' For he pronounced all animals, and 
likewise the human organism and its functions, to be 
purely ' automatic,' that is, effects of the mechanical 
forces of the physical world ; the unique substance, mind 
or soul, being confined to a minute portion of the human 
body, namely, the pineal gland. That conclusion of the 
founder of the dualistic theory evinces a misconception of 
the very grounds that may be advanced in its defence, 
as ludicrous as that of the innocents who in the last 



12 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

century professed to evolve feeling out of the movements 
of molecules. 

Those grounds of distinction are epistemological, that 
is, they are purely psychological. 

Epistemologically the inner world of mind ' contains ' 
the entire universe. Orion and the Pleiades, sun-drifts 
and nebulae, the globe, its hills and oceans, beasts and 
birds, men and women, are, in so far as known, but parts, 
feelings of the knowing mind, which by no possibility 
can reach beyond its feelings. But that upsetting and 
irrefutable demonstration which staggers and perplexes 
the ' plain man/ seeming to dissolve the solid world 
into such stuff as dreams are made on, leaves, as a matter 
of fact, things exactly as they were before. For in that 
universe of feelings ' contained ' within consciousness we 
come anew upon the self-same relations and distinctions 
between our feeling organism and the stars, ourselves and 
our dinner, ourselves and the men and women about us, 
as in the world of unsophisticated experience. Nothing 
in it is changed by the Berkeleyan poser, which amounts 
to saying that we only know things by having a knowledge 
of them. What that ' knowing ' is, is the real question. 

Consciousness is feeling ; and we can know, be aware 
of, conscious of, nothing but our own feelings. But feelings 
have developed the peculiar property of being presentative, 
of representing, that is, something other than the ex- 
perienced feeling itself. Every feeling can be converted 
into an object of presentation by thinking about it ; 
our anger of an hour ago, our toothache of last month, 
our sorrow, can be contemplated. Our feeling in so doing 
is no longer anger, toothache, or sorrow, but the presenta- 
tion of those feelings. And the feelings thus presented, 
or represented, can only be feelings of which we ourselves 
have already had experience ; we can only present to 
ourselves our own feelings. 

Some feelings have, however, in relation to the urging 
needs of life, become presentative in a special manner ; 



INTRODUCTION 13 

and the object of their presentation is what we call 
' matter.' We shall see that those sensory feelings have 
been differentiated by degrees out of the original, primitive 
feelings of pleasantness and unpleasantness ; and not all 
sensory feelings are to the same degree differentiated, 
nor do they all supply the elements of our perception 
of matter. A world, for instance, that should present 
no sensory feelings but those of smell, of warmth, of 
formless colour, would not furnish the notion of matter, 
would be purely solipsistic. In their fully developed 
form those sensory feelings constitute our knowledge of 
matter. ' Knowledge ' that can obviously never be the 
thing itself ; my presentation of last month's toothache 
is not my toothache, even though the object of presenta- 
tion is here a feeling which I have experienced, and the 
presentation of it as close a copy, presumably, of the 
original as a presentation can be ; it is a rehearsal, a 
reproduction of the same affective attitude. But what 
does the presentation of matter reproduce or rehearse ? 

To reproduce my own experienced feelings is a fairly 
intelligible performance ; the object of presentation is 
a former attitude of the mind, and all that is required 
is to assume the same or a similar attitude. But to 
present, to picture something which is not my feelings, 
something quite different from my feelings, is a feat of 
intuition which could only be regarded as an inscrutable 
and unintelligible miracle. That, of course, is no bar 
to our recognizing the miracle in a world where much 
is inscrutable and unintelligible. But, in fact, that 
incongruous miracle does not happen. The perception 
of matter is not at all an intuition of something different 
from our feelings : it is, just as much as our presentation 
of toothache or anger, a presentation in terms of our 
feelings. What those sensory feelings which supply the 
perception of matter present is a perfectly definite thing, 
it is the representation of our potential actions ; that 
and nothing else. Matter, its spacial extension and 



14 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

relations, its form, resistance, consistency and texture, 
as presented by tactile exploration and manipulation, 
molar directed movements, and their synthesis in visual 
perception, represents the possibilities of our activity in 
the ambient in which we move. That ambient is ' external ' 
precisely because we can act upon it ; and the ' object of 
presentation ' is nothing else than the object of action, 
and the form of its presentation that of possible action. 

Look at the starry heavens, the sea, the earth, the 
living bodies upon it ; does that sensory spectacle of 
solid substantiality convey to you any information beyond 
the variety of actions which, disporting yourself in it, 
and manipulating it, you could in thought perform ? 
There are, to be sure, certain superadded features in it, 
colours, odours, sounds, temperatures, which do not 
represent your molar action ; but those features, which 
in other ways serve the purpose of guiding action, do 
not enter into your perception of material substantiality, 
and need not therefore concern us here. The very fact 
that they are discarded and set aside as irrelevant in 
our concept of matter should in itself somewhat pointedly 
indicate the nature of that concept ; it is entirely made 
up of the projection of our active movements, it presents 
nothing else. 

' Knowledge ' of matter in terms of our motor activities 
is perfectly correct, reliable, and complete. Let us get 
rid of the superstition that there is anything illusory 
or deceptive about it. The accuracy of our presentation 
of matter is the most readily and the most constantly 
verifiable knowledge we possess. That log of wood which 
appears to me as distant so many paces, of a certain 
size and form, of a certain rigidity and texture, is exactly 
what it appears to be ; every one of those impressions 
I can verify by going up to it, handling it, operating 
on it. Sensation may under certain circumstances be 
deceptive, as when I mistake a flat painted surface, or a 
reflection, for a solid body, or estimate the size of the 



INTRODUCTION 15 

moon as less than that of the Peloponnese ; those are 
illusions because subsequent activity will not be consis- 
tent with those presentations formed from inadequate 
experience. But there is no illusion whatever in the 
normal presentation of matter, for it quite accurately 
represents everything which it professes to represent. 1 

Illusion, deception, are only introduced by theoretical 
thought when it conceives that the presentation of possible 
action represents anything else, that sensory knowledge 
of matter is I know not what inconceivable ' reflection ' 
or ' picture ' of its ' being ' or ' substance.' That is gross, 
glaring fallacy and absurdity, but it is not sensory per- 
ception, but metaphysical misthought that is responsible 
for it. And that absurdity of thought is exposed by 
thought in the flat self-contradiction of a substance 
which exists independently, that is, apart from our 
feelings, and the attributes of whose existence yet 
consist solely in feelable characters. It is the essence 
of the concept of ' substance ' to be what it is inde- 
pendently of any relation to anything else,* while it 
is the essence of matter that all its characters depend 
upon our feeling it. No two concepts could stand 
in more radical opposition to one another ; and no 
contradiction could be more absolute than the identifica- 
tion of the two. 

1 Any understanding of matter was absolutely impossible for 
faculty-psychology, and is so, so long as sensation is regarded as 
' given.' " The senses do not deceive because they do not judge," 
said Kant. On the contrary, they do judge, but that judgment is 
entirely one of possible action. 

u TO Trpwrwf ov, KCU aTrXwe ov." 

Aristotle, Metaphys. vii, c, i. 
" Substantia est ens tanquam per se habens esse." 

Aquinas, De Potentia, a, vii. 
" Res cujus naturae debetur non esse in alio." 

Aquinas, Quodlibet, ix, a, v ad 2. 

" Substance is a thing which exists of itself in such manner 
that it needs for its existence no other thing." 

Pesc.ajtes ; Princip, Philosoph. I, n. 51, 



16 

As soon as we think of matter not as an object of 
action, but as a source of action, not as acted upon, but 
as an agent, we leave entirely behind us the domain of 
sensory presentation. 

Sensory experience presents in addition to matter 
itself the movements of matter, that is, the changes 
which continually take place in the field of our possible 
actions. Our own activity consists in nothing else than 
in producing such changes in the material field. The 
activity of matter, then, is of precisely the same character 
as our own activity which the presentation of matter 
delineates in its potential form ; both ourselves and 
matter are sources of activity. 

The way in which we ourselves come to act, to produce 
changes in matter, is very varied and complex. It is 
in fact the study and elucidation of that process which 
constitutes the whole subject-matter of the science of 
psychology. And there is here a radical difficulty which 
is a fertile source of perplexity and confusion. Our 
activity is not directly represented in our consciousness. 
We can have presentations of our actions and of their 
effects in the material world in just the same manner as 
we can witness any other material changes, we can have 
presentations of possible or of intended actions, we desire 
certain objects, we have various sensations of muscular 
effort, feelings of hesitation and of conflicting motives, 
of resolution and decision, but our acts themselves are 
not feelings and cannot be represented as feelings. 
Feelings are in fact, as we shall see, the very converse 
of our activity, they are actions upon us, and cannot 
therefore possibly represent our own actions. Our actions 
are material, they are performed by our material bodies 
on material objects ; and it is here precisely that the 
gap occurs which puzzles and perplexes us, the gap 
between our idea of moving our arm and the actual move- 
ment of our arm. We are at a loss to conceive how the 
one can be ' translated,' as we say, into the other. The 



INTRODUCTION 17 

cause of action cannot be presented in terms of matter, 
which is the object of action, or in terms of feeling, which 
is the effect of action ; hence our total incapacity of 
forming any presentation of a primum mobile. We 
give various names to the cause of activity, such as force, 
power, will, energy, and the like, but those words do 
not stand for any clear presentation whether in terms 
of matter or of feeling. 

But, although we have no feeling of action, all our 
feelings are in one way or in another intimately connected 
with our actions ; and we regard ourselves as agents, 
we have the general sense of activity, not because we 
have any feeling of agency, but because every feeling 
of ours is directly related to our acting, and has no 
significance apart from it. And thus it is that in spite 
of the absence of any presentation of activity, the cause 
of activity is conceived, however vaguely and inconsistently, 
in terms of our feelings. And indeed we cannot do other- 
wise ; for all presentations whatsoever are and must 
needs be in terms of our own feelings, even sensory 
presentations being in reality nothing else but represen- 
tations of our own feelings. Accordingly, when we think 
of matter as a source of action we are thrown back on 
a presentative analogy of our own feelings. 

The physicist in his investigation of physical phenomena 
aims at inquiring not only into our possible action upon 
things, but into the causes of the actions, the movements 
of things. This he can to some extent accomplish in two 
ways, either by linking up things into larger systems 
by means of ' laws ' or by an ' ether,' or by decomposing 
things into smaller and smaller constituents, into molecules 
and atoms, and thus explaining the total resultant action 
of things in terms of the movements of their component 
parts as ' forms of motion.' But, having subdivided 
things into parts, he is inevitably brought at last, if he 
desires to go farther into the explanation of actions, to 
a conceptual presentation which is no longer in terms 

2 



18 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of sensation, that is, of our action upon things, but in 
terms, darkly and vaguely, of our pure feelings. To 
the physicist the ultimate source of motion is, it is true, 
but a mathematical symbol, the value of which is the 
sum of effects ; but it can only be presented, thought of, 
as a presentation of feeling, just as our presentations 
of the feelings of other men and women can be nothing 
else than the presentation, by analogy, of our own feelings. 

Men and women are sensorily presented to us as 
corporeal, material objects ; we also think of them by 
inference as having feelings similar to our own. If we 
imagine ourselves peering into the living structure of 
their organisms, of their brains, say, or of the cells of 
their brains, of the molecules and atoms of those cells, 
we are still regarding them in precisely the same way 
as when viewing the flesh of their limbs ; to peer into 
their anatomy can only assist us in explaining their 
actions by enabling us to discover in the movements of 
the constituent parts of their organisms the components 
of the total movements of those organisms ; but so far 
as perceiving anything else we are exactly as far advanced 
when viewing their skin as when viewing their cerebral 
molecules : we are perceiving them as stun! that we can 
manipulate. From the presentation of manipulatable stuff I 
cannot derive that of a feeling or that of a source of activity. 
But if we peer into living structure with the eye of the 
physicist, seeking the source of its activity, it is not upon 
molecules or atoms that we come, but upon something 
which, although it is not indeed feeling, is so intimately 
connected with it that it is constantly confused with 
it and represented in terms of feeling. 

The science of psychology in its academical development, 
and likewise in the blind and futile revolt against it which 
arrayed itself in the incongruous garb of a quasi-physio- 
logical materialism, has built upon the quicksand of a 
metaphysical confusion of thought. And the consequences 
are not, as many have imagined, to be eluded by loudly 



INTRODUCTION 19 

repudiating all metaphysical responsibility, and by tossing 
over the problem of ' the relation between mind and 
matter ' to its inventor, the metaphysician. On the 
contrary, those consequences, like avenging furies, dog 
every step of the psychologist and pervade every portion 
of his insecure superstructure, which, while it lasts, is 
an enchanted castle fatally unamenable to any inter- 
pretative effort, and which must at last come tumbling 
about his ears in the utter ruin of irreconcilable antinomies. 
For as long as it remains a ' separate ' and self-contained 
universe no interpretation of any phenomenon within it 
is possible, unless it can prove itself to be indeed complete, 
and can discover within its own orbit the causes and the 
effects of its constituent elements ; and in proportion 
as the psychologist entrenches himself within a line of 
demarcation drawn with emphasized stringency, protesting 
that ' conscious experience ' alone is his concern, that 
' psychology is introspection, and what is not introspection 
is not psychology/ do his difficulties grow more desperate. 
And whether that ' separate universe ' confesses to the 
scholastic impeachment of substantiality or no makes 
no essential difference ; it must share the fate of the 
dualistic fallacy, which is in reality a form of materialism, 
for it is from the substantiality of matter that the notion 
has been extended to mind, thus creating a second 
' substance,' and the latter must inevitably be involved 
in the ruin of matter. 

There is no such thing as a self-contained world of 
consciousness. 

To epistemological psychology the mind naturally was 
a cognizing, knowing thing, the Nous, nay, a thinking 
thing the res cogitans of Descartes ; the soul, or in more 
modern phraseology, the ' subject of experience,' was a 
spectator, and consciousness ( ein Schauspiel nur.' It is 
a fact, which in our revolt against that paralytic view of 
mental life we are prone to minimize, that consciousness 
is overwhelmingly cognitive ; and the more elaborate its 



20 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

development, the more is its centre of focused distinctness 
occupied with presentations and with cognitive processes. 
It is not cognition alone, but the entire world of conscious- 
ness, which is functionally subordinate to the conative 
activities of the organism, to which every element of 
consciousness converges and of which it is an instrument 
and product. And that activity which constitutes the 
basis of all conscious phenomena, as of all life, is not 
itself an element of consciousness, is not represented in 
consciousness. To take a trivial everyday illustration, 
self-knowledge of our own individual ' character ' is not 
to be derived from any introspective experience, but from 
experience of our actual behaviour just as if we were 
dealing as an indifferent observer with the behaviour 
of some other individual. Consequently no science of 
introspective experience is possible ; for such a science 
would of necessity be compelled to limit itself to objects 
of which it must needs ignore both the causes and the 
effects as well as every link and connection between their 
constituent elements ; and those objects of investigation 
would therefore remain, in spite of any metaphysical 
disclaimer, as completely isolated as any scholastic 
' substance ' or dualistic ' epiphenomenon/ and therefore 
destitute of any possible significance and for ever insus- 
ceptible of intelligible apprehension. Setting aside the 
linking of every mental process at either end through 
action and sensation with the material world, it is, on 
the contrary, impossible to investigate fundamentally 
any single event of conscious experience without the 
fact being revealed that nine parts of the process lie 
outside consciousness. Every fact of consciousness is but 
a detached and disconnected phrase torn from its context, 
and that context has to be sought elsewhere. Within 
the sphere of cogitation itself, the professedly characteristic 
sphere of the epistemologically conceived mind, the laws 
of the association of ideas by which it was once sought 
to connect the discontinuous elements of consciousness 



INTRODUCTION 21 

by an intelligible nexus, and thus to make experience 
a self-contained whole, are but superficial appearances 
of limited and questionable applicability. The elements 
of consciousness are only to a very small extent connected 
with one another ; it is in a sphere which is not that of 
conscious experience that the actual connection takes 
place. That supposed substantive and separate world 
of mind, of conscious experience, turns out to be 
but as the jagged crest of an iceberg the bulk of 
which lies submerged in a world which is not that 
of consciousness. 

It is, in short, nothing less than the complete disso- 
lution of the concept of mind which the science of 
mind is at the present day called upon to witness. Mind 
is consciousness, what is not consciousness is not mind ; 
yet the greater portion of mental processes lies outside 
the precincts of consciousness. Like her twin sister, 
matter, mind has become an untenable incongruity. 
Matter, that other child of primitive metaphysics, crumbles 
under the fingers of the physical inquirer. The physicist, 
however, is not pledged to save matter and cares little 
about its dissolution so long as he has definite dynamic 
energies to measure. But when the science of the soul 
also finds herself left with unconscious dynamic energies 
on her hands, either the definition of psychology or that 
of mind calls for radical reformulation. 

Consider what distance we have travelled from the 
course laid down by scholastic psychology when a 
psychologist l quietly proposes to define the one-time 
science of mind as the Science of Behaviour. Behaviour ! 
Not ideas, not the soul, not the inner world, not that 
Cartesian substance secluded in splendid isolation within 
its corporeal tenement, is deemed the proper sphere of 
the science of mind, but the way people act, move their 
hands and feet, and what comes out of their mouths. 
In that conception of psychology a human being is placed 

1 Dr. W. McDougall. 



22 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

under observation and his reactions studied in precisely 
the same manner as those of a metal or a gas. 

That definition goes, to be sure, too far in the direction 
of objectivity. For it is the privilege of the psychologist 
to penetrate somewhat farther than the chemist or the 
physicist. He can not only note the nature of those 
reactions as they are actually seen in the behaviour of 
men and women under the eye of an observer, he can go 
behind the scenes and explore, at least a little way, the 
factors which modify and determine those reactions, a 
privilege which the chemist and the physicist do not 
enjoy. 

If a definition of the scope of psychological science 
be insisted on, it is as the Science of the Factors of 
Behaviour that it might most aptly be described. For 
those objects of consciousness, those presentations and 
ideas, those thoughts and those feelings of which conscious- 
ness is compacted, can no longer be regarded as the phan- 
tasmal objects of a contemplative vision, but are means 
and instruments whereby the quality of action is deter- 
mined ; and that is their sole function. ' The mind,' 
consciousness, is no mere spectacle that can justify its 
existence by being simply viewed, but a link in the 
process of doing, a factor of action, one of the devices 
whereby through living beings changes are effected in 
the universe. 



CHAPTER I 
ACTION AND PURPOSE 

LIFE, then, in us and in all beings, is manifested by 
actions. For each act, wise or foolish, that we perform 
we are in general able to adduce a rational justification 
by reference to an ulterior end, by showing, that is, that 
our action is a means to an end. The act is therefore 
described as purposive, and the end to which it is directed 
is called the purpose of the act. Most of our acts are 
thus referable to a proximate purpose, which again is 
conditioned by some ulterior purpose, that again by 
another, and so on. Our purposes, the justifications 
of our acts, are thus encased like a nest of Chinese boxes 
the one within the other. We dress that we may go 
out, we go out that we may be at a given place at a given 
time, we keep the appointment that we may advance 
some business upon which we are engaged, we are engaged 
upon it in order to earn money, we seek money in order 
to live, we live . . . Here we reach the last box of the 
Chinese puzzle. We wish to live, life is desirable ; that 
must serve as a sufficient reason. Or if we want to put 
a better face upon the matter, we may say that it is 
our duty to live, that for the sake of our family, for the 
sake of mankind, of some ideal or other, we are willing 
to bear the whips and scorns of time. But whether we 
aim high or low, in every such reference of our motives 
to some ulterior principle, we come at last upon a 
categorical end arbitrarily pronounced to be desirable. 
That ' ultimate purpose ' by which we justify our proxi- 

23 



24 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

mate and ulterior purposes stands itself in need of justifi- 
cation and, being ultimate, it is left unjustified. No 
rational account of the goal of our acts is to be formu- 
lated ; for such a formulation would entail its conversion 
into a means by reference to some object beyond it. 
The concentric series upon which every act of our lives, 
as a purposive act, rests, regresses to a purpose, the 
purpose of which is not to be set down in thought. 
To justify that end, to name the purpose which it 
serves would be to give an answer to the last riddle of 
things. No thinker, no system of metaphysics, no fancy 
of mysticism or claim of revelation, has succeeded in 
prefiguring, even darkly and dimly, such an end. All 
our purposes are in the end purposeless. 

The purposes which we formulate as rational justifications 
of our actions are, then, of quite subsidiary import. They 
do not represent the end of our actions, but merely various 
steps which we adopt as means towards that end. What 
we do is not to act in view of a given purpose, but to 
discover the means of achieving something which we are 
impelled to do. The impulse which prompts us to adopt 
a particular purpose as a means to the satisfaction of 
that impulse is the motive power that sets us, or any 
organism, in motion. It is the impulse which determines 
the purpose, not the purpose which determines the impulse. 

We use the words ' purpose ' and ' motive ' as synonyms : 
we say that a given purpose was the ' motive ' of such 
and such an action. But a purpose is not a motive. 
No human being was ever set in motion by a purpose. 
You may conceive all the purposes you please, they will 
not move you an inch unless you are impelled to make 
use of them. The attribution of motive power to a 
purpose Aristotle's ' final cause ' is a flagitious mis- 
conception. Our actions are produced by the continued 
operation of an efficient cause, the impulse that actuates 
them ; the operation is only converted into an ' ideal 
end ' by the introduction of means devised by the intellect 



ACTION AND PURPOSE 25 

in the service of that operation, which thus becomes an 
intellectual category of finality by reference to those 
intellectual means. That finality is derived from the 
instrumentality, not from the active operation itself. 
Remove that use of means, and only the bare fact of 
action is left, divested of any ' final cause.' A purpose in 
view is only a particular device by which the efficient 
cause operates. 

To have a formulated purpose in view is by no means 
a condition of action. It is only in difiicult and unfamiliar 
circumstances that we devise means by the process of 
thought, and thus act with ' an end in view.' But that 
rational devising of means is but one of many ways in 
which the impulses of life operate ; it is a quite exceptional 
mode of behaviour. We do not go about life in that 
scheming, designing fashion ; we do not unpack our 
nest of Chinese boxes at every turn. That is an act of 
philosophy, not the ordinary procedure of life. The 
purposes of most of our acts are only consciously for- 
mulated as an afterthought. That formulation is a 
ratiocinative spelling backwards of the actual psychological 
process. It is an a -posteriori psychological analysis, a 
post-mortem which we hold on our actions. Our intel- 
lectualistic analysis extends to all our acts a language 
derived from a very exceptional type of action ; and by 
calling the ways and means which we employ to satisfy 
the impulses that actuate us ' purposes,' we consider 
that our actions are thus rationally justified, and that 
we are actuated by purposes. That, of course, is the 
purest delusion. 

To explain how our actions are brought about used to 
be thought a fairly simple matter. It was considered 
and is even now considered by some writers who ought 
to know better that the question is adequately elucidated 
by saying that we seek what gives us pleasure and shun 
what gives us pain, and that the motive force of our 
lives is to strive after happiness. 



36 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

It appears incredible that anyone accustomed to clear 
thinking should ever have deluded himself into accepting 
such an answer, upon which, as the reader knows, whole 
systems of philosophy and even of politics have been 
founded. The pleasure-and-pain theory is merely a 
verbal roundabout : Why do we desire a given object ? 
Because it affords us satisfaction. Why does it afford 
us satisfaction ? Because we desire it. In the merry- 
go-round of such a vicious circle there is no getting 
farther. The formula leads us at once into desperate 
difficulties when we endeavour to discriminate between 
one order of actions and another. The hedonistic 
psychologist is at once held up by his old friend the 
martyr, and is eventually compelled to draw up a scale 
of pleasures and happinesses on grounds wholly extra- 
neous to his theory ; for we have no means whatever 
of instituting a quantitative comparison between the 
pleasure of the sot and that of the saint on the whole 
one would be inclined to consider the former's more 
massive. 

The reason of those difficulties is that it is not the 
satisfaction which determines the desire, but the desire 
which determines the satisfaction. The pleasures and 
pains which we seek or shun are not attributes of given 
objects or situations, for the same object or situation 
will produce various and opposite feelings in different 
organisms, and in the same organism at different times. 
Those feelings depend on dispositions within ourselves 
which objects and situations affect favourably or un- 
favourably. Pleasure is the satisfaction of our impulses, 
pain is their thwarting. The pleasant or unpleasant 
quality of a feeling is the representation in our consciousness 
of the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the impulses that 
actuate us. Various forms of satisfaction, that of the 
glutton and that of the hero, differ not because they weigh 
or measure more, but because they are the satisfaction 
of different impulses. And since all impulses tend towards 



27 

their satisfaction, the pleasure-pain theory is a tautological 
truism. 

It is extremely questionable, however, whether the 
formula is even true in its tautological sense. It arose 
as an a priori theoretical assumption rather than as a 
matter of psychological induction. Is it true that a 
feeling of pleasure is invariably attached to the acts 
or to the ideas of the acts which we are impelled to do ? 
Throughout organic life living beings are constantly sub- 
mitting to all manner of pains and discomforts in their 
obstinate obedience to master-impulses, and it is very 
disputable whether in doing so any prospect or sense 
of greater pleasure or lessened pain enters into their 
conscious feelings at all. They will make exces- 
sive efforts and wade through jungles of discomfort 
in order to satisfy a quite moderate degree of hunger 
or appetite, altogether disproportionate to the heroisms 
manifested in indulging it. The reproductive instinct 
constantly chooses martyrdom with no prospect whatever 
of pleasure. Is the feeling of the hen-bird which turns 
against the dogs in defence of her brood one of pleasure ? 
No animal, in fact, and no human being spontaneously 
balances his profit and loss account. The true martyr and 
hero, like the invertebrate organism, does not feel at all 
in terms of pleasure and pain. The thinker who deliber- 
ately chooses poverty, bitterness, and the kicks of asses, 
in the service of odious and unpopular ideas knows quite 
well what he is about from the standpoint of the pleasure- 
and-pain balance-sheet. The appeal of strong or high 
impulses is quite independent of the physiological con- 
trivance of pleasure and pain. The surrender to the 
imperative urge of a mastering impulse is accompanied 
by a feeling-tone, but even the non-thinker judges it to 
be an abuse of language to call that feeling pleasure. 
Consider the appeal from a purely affective point of 
view of all sad, melancholy, and even harrowing feelings 
and interests, provided they are on a high or a fundamental 



28 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

plane. The appeal of tragedy, for instance, has never 
been satisfactorily accounted for by the analysis of the 
pleasure-and-pain psychology. Pleasure and pain are 
primitive forms of feeling which serve their purpose of 
guidance in the more rudimentary, physiological stages 
of reaction ; in higher development and in connection 
with the more powerful, fundamental impulses they lose 
their importance and sink into comparative insignificance. 
The appeal of affective values is then sufficient in itself 
without assuming the primitive form of crude pleasure 
and pain. Where impulses are weak and hesitant, and 
therefore liable to be misled, they are guided by lively 
feelings of pleasure and pain, but where they are strong, 
reckless, ruthless, those leading-strings are superfluous, 
and are accordingly dispensed with. 

The cause of our acting in a particular way is a dis- 
position to act in that particular way. That explanation 
may sound unsatisfactory, and akin to that given by 
Moliere's physician of the dormitive virtue of opium ; 
but it is the only one which we are entitled to give. We 
do not know the cause of our disposition to act, and 
where we cannot describe a thing by its causes we are 
compelled to describe it by its effects. 

Ordinary human thought and the profoundest efforts 
of philosophers have always sought to disguise the 
crudity of that explanation. They have either tried to 
believe that we are actuated by ' purposes,' or by the 
quest of a certain thing called pleasure or happiness 
notions which are quite erroneous and fallacious. Or they 
have given to our dispositions to act various names, such 
as the 'Will,' 'Will to power/ and the like. 'Will' 
and ' power ' are words which simply mean a disposition 
to act. To call our disposition to act ' Will ' throws no 
more light on it than if we were to call it ' Tom ' ; and it 
has the disadvantage of suggesting misleading connotations. 

The actions of living organisms are varied ; human 
beings differ widely in their behaviour from animals and 



ACTION AND PURPOSE 20 

from one another. Tastes differ, likes and dislikes differ. 
The conative dispositions manifested in behaviour appear 
to be greatly diversified. 

Your own personal tastes are, I make no doubt, exquisite 
and refined. You are, we will suppose, keenly interested 
in art and in science ; you seek your truest pleasures in 
all that the human spirit has achieved of subtlest and of 
most precious and delicate. Those refined tastes of yours 
are, of course, the product of . a certain education, of 
a certain culture ; your mind is trained to higher and 
more perfect pleasures, taps sources of interest and 
gladness that for the ignorant multitude are non-existent. 
In short, as you will readily admit, the tastes in the 
things you delight in and value are acquired tastes. The 
Philistine to whom they are caviare will pronounce them 
to be ' acquired tastes ' with a distinct note of disparage- 
ment in the expression. Those Pheidian marbles, say, 
the sight of which moves you with a strange thrill, that 
music that delights you, will cause neither pleasure nor 
pain to your greengrocer. He will probably prefer beer 
to Beethoven. 

There are other tastes likewise, other likes and dislikes, 
other determinants of your actions, which, no less than 
your artistic or scientific tastes, are acquired. Your 
table-manners, for instance, your behaviour in social 
intercourse, the actions that derive from traditional and 
customary estimates and opinions, the whole beseemingness 
of your conduct and deportment, an enormous part of 
your morality, of your conscience. There are yet other 
and deeper dispositions which are equally, however 
anciently, in the stream of your heredity, acquired ; 
a host of instincts, like the instincts of animals, which 
are the product of a long evolution from primal protoplasm 
onwards ; primeval appetites and fears, ancient racial 
memories, the combativeness of remote male ancestors, 
the constructiveness of old builders, the sentiments of 
primitive worshippers, the gregariousness of antediluvian 



80 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

herds ; instincts which, down to physiological functional 
appetites, hark back to an immemorial ancestry, but 
which were, by that ancestry, acquired, the fruit of a 
long education by experience of the race. Those inherited 
instincts were originally no less acquired than your 
pleasure in Greek marbles or Tschaikowski symphonies. 

The fact is that all the forms of your conative dispositions, 
all your specific tendencies, likes and dislikes, are in their 
origin acquired characters. They are not original, innate 
and intrinsic characters of life, but products of develop- 
ment by experience. A specific appetence can arise in 
no other way. 

A disposition to act can, in a living organism, become 
directed towards a definite object only as a result of 
experience of that object. You do not know whether 
you will like or dislike a thing until you have tried. You 
may, of course, by a broad induction describe the kinds 
of things or experiences you like and those you dislike. 
You may say, for instance, that you have a liking for 
literature or the drama ; but you must have read a 
particular book, seen a particular play, before you are 
in a position to say definitely whether you like them or 
no. The object of the reviews is to guide you as to the 
probability of your liking the book or the play sufficiently 
to justify you in spending your money on it. But the 
question can only be definitely settled by your reading 
or your hearing. Do you like Chinese music ? do you 
like Arabian poetry ? do you like the view from Corcovado ? 
The questions are absurd unless you have lived in China, 
studied Arabic, visited Rio. 

We do not know what we like and what we dislike until 
we have tried ; we do not know whether a given object 
will satisfy or offend our conative dispositions, whether 
it will give us pleasure or pain. Hence conies about 
the ingenuous illusion that pleasure and pain are the 
determinants of our actions. The conative dispositions 
of living organisms must first have been tested by 



ACTION AND PURPOSE 81 

particular situations, by particular objects, before they 
can be known as pleasure or pain, appetence or averseness, 
before they can be established in the race as organized 
tendencies towards a certain form of satisfaction, a certain 
type of action. It is the process of experience, it is 
feeling and cognition with all their infinite variety which 
reveal the character of the conative dispositions of life, 
evolve them into specific desires, instincts, appetences, 
and bring about the correspondingly infinite variety of 
impulses into which the elemental dispositions of life 
become diversified. 

Suppose that you are a chemist and that some entirely 
new mineral, a new element, which has been discovered 
in the bowels of the earth, is brought to you for the first 
time. You will set about investigating its properties ; 
you will subject your new element to all manner of 
experiments, try the effects of heat, of electricity, of 
magnetism upon it, and of all the reagents and acids 
in your laboratory. The new element will behave in a 
definite way when subjected to each of those conditions, 
and you will be able to draw up an account of its various 
reactions, of the definite way in which it behaves in 
various circumstances. Although the mineral, which has 
slept for some billions of years in the depths of the earth, 
may never before have been subjected to such diversified 
treatment, been pounded in a mortar, had nitric acid 
poured over it, had evil-smelling sulphuretted hydrogen 
blown through it, been calcinated, magnetized, liquefied, 
gasified, its behaviour in each of those trying conditions 
is exactly determined by its constitution ; every one of 
its reactions to a new condition reveals properties that 
lay latent in the disposition of its energy. 

So it is with the dispositions that actuate living 
organisms. Life, we believe, is continuous from the first 
primordial protozoon to our own organism ; at no time, 
if we allow the conception of organic evolution, has any 
new principle entered into it, been superadded to its 



82 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

disposition. Life reacts to experience, to feeling, to 
pleasure and pain ; but that reaction is determined by 
the conative disposition of which it is the expression 
in consciousness. As experience becomes diversified, so 
do the forms which the conative disposition of life assumes ; 
as experience exparids, so does the scope of life's energies 
expand ; as feeling, cognition, develop, so do those energies 
attain to fuller, clearer expression of their direction and 
tendency. Anteriorly to experience they grope in a world 
unrealized, and no living being knows, we know not in 
our consciousness, what chord of feeling, pleasant or 
unpleasant, that experience will strike upon the disposi- 
tions of our being. 

We have no knowledge, apart from experience, of the 
direction and tendency of the conative dispositions that 
actuate us. We do not know the law, so to speak, of our 
impulses. We are quite unable from any introspective 
knowledge to define the character, the ' whither ' of 
those dispositions. We are not in a position to answer 
off-hand the question, ' Whither do our desires tend ? ' 

Nothing surely, it would appear at first blush, is more 
vividly known to us than our desires, what we should 
like. If anyone were to request you to be good enough 
to draw out a little list of your desiderata, on the under- 
standing that they would be duly fulfilled, you would 
certainly accept the task with considerable zest and 
enthusiasm ; and, whether you take an interest in 
psychology or no, you would think that the most delightful 
exercise ever devised in psycho-analysis. Your desires 
would come tumbling over one another an income of 
a million or so, exuberant health and a long life, that 
house, that steam-yacht that you have had your eye 
upon, the love of that woman, freedom, leisure to enjoy 
it all, and so forth. No task would be easier, you think, 
than to express your desires. 

But would it really be so easy ? 

Mr. H. G. Wells has somewhere a story about a common- 



ACTION AND PURPOSE 83 

place young man to whom was granted the gift of perform- 
ing miracles, of realizing whatever came into his head. 
And the story of what he did with that priceless power 
is a tale of such absurd tomfoolery and senseless, dangerous 
pranks that even he, though below the average of stupidity, 
came to see the idiocy of it, and his utter unfitness, from 
the point of view of his own welfare, to be trusted with 
such a power ; and that he asked to be relieved of it. 
Mr. Wells's thaumaturgic young man was a particularly 
stupid specimen ; but most of us, I think, would experience 
considerable embarrassment in making use of omnipotence. 
How delightful it would be, you may have indulged in 
the day-dream after reading the Arabian Nights, to have 
the Slave of the Lamp make his bow before you and ask 
you to take the trouble to wish. One or two very simple 
wishes would probably occur to you at once, but you 
would very soon realize that any formulation of your 
wishes, to be at all consistent, and anything but grossly 
absurd, would require very careful consideration and 
deliberation, would indeed be not at all such an easy task 
as it seems, but a problem of considerable difficulty. 
We should, on consideration, if we had any discretion, 
probably end by asking our Slave of the Lamp to allow 
us a day or two to think the matter over carefully. Most 
of the things that it would naturally occur to us to wish 
for, wealth, health, long life, talent, are not ends in 
themselves, but merely means towards some object of 
appetence which we leave wholly undefined. We wish 
for Monte Cristo's millions, but what use we should make 
of them when we had them is quite another question. 
The scrambling sacra fames for wealth is mostly not an 
appetence at all for a positive object, but a negative 
desire to be relieved from the carking cares and abominable 
petty anxieties of non-wealth. I once came in a news- 
paper upon an account of a middle-aged couple somewhere 
in the United States who unexpectedly succeeded to 
millionaire wealth. This is the way in which they 

3 



84 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

employed the money : they had a palatial residence 
built, the greater part of which consisted in sumptuously 
appointed drinking saloons, where they invited their 
friends to come and get intoxicated at their expense ; 
when they went for a drive they were preceded by a 
brass band. 

The pathetic impotence of our imagination whenever 
we endeavour to define or describe our heart's desire 
is vividly instanced in the utter and universal failure of 
all attempts to give any, even the most general, description 
of the delights of Paradise. Of the torments of Hell we 
have a multitude of detailed, vivid and entirely satisfactory 
descriptions, from those of the monk Tyndal and of Dante 
to the admirable manual published by Father Furniss 
for the use of young children, in which the boiling of 
the brain in the skull of an unbaptized infant, and the 
circulation of molten lead in the veins of unbelievers 
are minutely and convincingly described. But when it 
comes to picturing the condition of the souls of the blessed, 
the paralysis of our imagination is so complete, so pitiful, 
so manifest, that even the exponents of the happiness 
of the heavenly state who are most anxious to impress 
us with its surpassing desirability are driven to disown 
all attempts to formulate its nature, and to declare that 
the form and nature of that happiness is wholly incon- 
ceivable and indescribable, even in the most general terms. 

We realize that a condition in which the desires that we 
can formulate should be completely satisfied would be a 
state of tedium and boredom before which the imagination 
recoils in horror. As a matter of fact, as we shall under- 
stand better by and by, such a state would not be merely 
one of boredom, it would be a state of unconsciousness. 
The Heaven of the Christian, perfect happiness, involves, 
no less than that of the Buddhist, as a psychological 
necessity the annihilation of consciousness. The condition 
of ' happiness ' is not the satisfaction of existing desires, 
but the progressive satisfaction of ever new desires. And 



ACTION AND PURPOSE 35 

the nearest possible approach within the limits of our 
experience to such a condition is not any perfected and 
rounded satisfaction, but the opportunity for the continuous 
exercise of our powers of self-development. 

In nothing are we so completely powerless as in con- 
ceiving the tendency of our desires and appetites. The 
only desires that we are capable of conceiving are either 
for objects which have already been disclosed to us by 
our experience, or for the means towards some end which 
is left wholly undefined. 

And yet it is clear that our wistfulness does not stop 
at the limit of the desires that we can formulate. It 
certainly reaches beyond them. There are in us wholly 
undeveloped capacities for joy. We all know the truth 
of the expression that there are times when ' we do not 
know what we want/ We are in a state of general 
dissatisfaction which we cannot specify, and for which 
we can suggest no remedy. We have come to a loose 
end. Maybe we shall have the good fortune to come 
upon an experience that will at once clear up the matter ; 
we shall have found the satisfaction of which we were 
unwittingly in search, and our soul cries * Eureka.' But 
until that ' Eureka ' comes we are but thrusting out the 
pseudopods of our vain desires we know not whither. 
We are dull to perceive our soul's affinities ; experience 
must needs pound insistently at us to awaken them into 
consciousness. 

. . . Conosceste i dubbiosi desiri ? 

* Knew ye your dubious desires ? ' asks Dante of Francesca 
in that great poem of love's tragedy. Nothing is clearer 
than the goal to which the most potent motive impulse 
of living things is directed the perpetuation of the race. 
But is that end even dimly present to the consciousness 
of the lover ? Is it present to consciousness in the effect 
upon us of wafted music, of blowing scents, in art, in 
poetry, which strike the chords of undefined emotions ? 



36 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

The patent goal of the impulse which urges three- 
fourths of life is as unconscious as the most mechanical 
instinct which we count insentient and blind. And what 
is plainly manifest in that impulse which bestirs life to 
its fiercest activities is no less true of every end which 
under the illusory disguise of some short-reaching purpose 
we are driven to pursue. The ulterior ends, the goals, 
towards which our desires are but steps, remain hidden. 
Like the mason-wasp that stores food for the offspring 
of which she knows nothing, we are led to narrow desires 
by instincts to the end of which we are entirely blind. 
The inmost springs of our soul are unexpressed, unconscious 
and unknown. 

The scope of that activity which is in us conscious is 
entirely confined to the sphere of means by which un- 
formulated impulses strive towards realization in action. 
The source and the ultimate end of those actions are 
unrepresented in consciousness. The impulses which 
actuate our consciousness and our behaviour are as blind, 
as unconscious, as the instincts of the bee and of the wasp, 
as the ' mechanical ' forces of the inorganic world. 



CHAPTER II 

ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 

To manifest itself in action is not a peculiarity distinctive 
of life ; it is a character common to all known existence. 
The whole universe is resolvable into motion, that is, 
into action ; it is dynamic, and no ' being,' no static 
existence, is discoverable. There is in this respect no 
distinction between the inorganic and the organic, the 
living and the non-living, the animate and the inanimate. 

Those distinctions are not grossly apparent, and were 
not primitively drawn by human thought ; they are a 
matter of interpretation. Both the moon and my friend 
Jones appear to me as extended solid bodies which move ; 
I ascribe the movements of Jones to certain powers and 
dispositions which are not directly observable ; and I 
ascribe the movements of the moon likewise to certain 
powers and dispositions which are not directly observable. 
The movements of living objects, like those of inorganic 
objects, take place in relation to external conditions ; 
both are reactions to that relation. 

It is not until we come to analyse the way in 
which organic and inorganic objects move that distinc- 
tive differences become apparent. Those differences are 
marked and manifest, so that scarcely any observer, 
whether scientific or no, ever commits the mistake of 
confounding a living with an inorganic object. But, 
strangely enough, when it comes to defining, or even 
roughly describing, those differences, human thought has 
invariably entered into a region of the utmost confusion, 

37 



38 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

vagueness, and incongruity, substituting theories and 
interpretations of the causes of those differences for the 
observable facts. While primitively it failed to draw 
any clear distinction between the two kinds of reaction, 
it would appear to have become so impressed with the 
magnitude of the difference as to consider that it could 
only be accounted for by supposing it to be due to some 
totally different principle, which is the cause of the 
movements of living objects and which is entirely absent 
from inorganic objects. Indeed, some have thought one 
additional principle insufficient to account for the actions 
of living objects, and have accordingly postulated two, 
one to discharge their physiological functions and the 
other those of their consciousness, a vegetative soul or 
vital force, and a cogitative soul or mind. The supposition, 
once made, has given rise to a whole maze of new puzzles, 
as for instance : How does that entirely different principle 
postulated for the purpose of moving living objects come 
to perform by a generatio equivoca its function at all ; 
how do I come to move my arm ? " That I can stretch 
forth my hand at all," was to Carlyle " an inscrutable, 
God-revealing miracle." Can you form a clearer con- 
ception of why a stone falls to the ground ? Is there 
anything less mysterious in the one movement than 
in the other ? Of the two, the movements of my hand in 
relation to desires of which I am aware appear to me 
rather less mysterious than the movements of the stone 
in relation to nothing whatever of which I am aware. 

Setting aside, however, for the present, all theories 
as to the causes of the differences between inorganic and 
living reactions, beyond the postulate that every reaction, 
whether inorganic or living, is the manifestation of a 
disposition to react in that particular way, let us consider 
the much more neglected question as to what those 
differences actually are. 

The reactions of inorganic objects take place in a manner 
which is so rigidly invariable that it is mathematically 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 39 

calculable when the physical circumstances are known. 
The disposition to which each of those reactions is due 
is only manifested directly by the reaction itself, and 
never indirectly by other reactions which may be inter- 
preted as modified manifestations of the same disposition 
tending to promote its operation. The stone tends to 
fall towards the centre of the earth, salt has an affinity 
for water ; but the only indications of those dispositions 
are the facts that stones do fall towards the centre of the 
earth, and that salt in the presence of moisture absorbs 
it. The stone does not circumvent obstacles in order to 
fall to the ground, salt does not seek water or in any way 
resist desiccation. 

The reactions of living beings, on the other hand, are 
very much more variable than those of inorganic objects. 
They are only approximately predicable. Their dis- 
position to react in given conditions in a certain way 
is, moreover, manifested not merely by the reaction 
itself, but by a series and variety of reactions which can 
be perceived to be conducive to the operation of that 
disposition and to the avoidance of conditions unfavourable 
to that operation. They seek and shun things by varied 
modifications of their reactions, they circumvent and 
overcome obstacles. 

If I place a burning candle under a glass bell, its flame 
will gradually die out as the oxygen becomes exhausted 
or I pump it out. If instead of a candle I place a living 
creature under the bell, the same thing will happen. Both 
the flame of the candle and the flame of life require oxygen, 
and absorb it eagerly. But that need is, in the living 
organisms, manifested by other reactions besides the 
mere absorption of oxygen. Some organisms at the very 
bottom of the scale of life, the rotifer animalcules, will, 
when placed under the air-pump, take quite effectual 
steps to protect themselves. They will enclose themselves 
in a varnish-like substance which they secrete, and which 
enables them to retain a sufficient amount of oxygen 



40 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

and moisture to maintain their metabolism for a time. 
If I place a sparrow under the bell of the air-pump it will, 
as the supply of oxygen fails, show unmistakable signs 
of uneasiness ; it will make desperate, though ineffectual, 
efforts to get away, to get at the oxygen outside. If a 
trap-door be contrived in the bell of the air-pump, it may, 
in its indiscriminate efforts, hit upon the way of escape. 
A mouse under like circumstances will almost certainly 
succeed in finding its way to safety. 

We cannot very well continue our investigation by 
placing a human being under the bell of our air-pump, 
but we can consider his behaviour in a quite similar 
situation. Suppose our human subject to be a passenger 
on an ocean steamer. Suddenly the steamer strikes a 
rock or an iceberg, and presently begins to settle at the 
bows. The event strongly affects the man just as the 
failure of oxygen affected the sparrow and the mouse ; 
but there is here this further difference : there is for 
the moment no actual failure of oxygen, but the man 
foresees that there is an imminent danger of a failure of 
oxygen, of asphyxia, of drowning. He forestalls the event, 
and he sets about taking various elaborate steps, such as 
helping to lower a boat, providing for a supply of food, 
keeping a look-out for a passing ship, setting up a signal, 
and so forth, to counter the menace. 

The reactions of the candle-flame, of the living animals, 
of the man, are, ultimately analysed, manifestations of 
an appetence, need, or affinity for oxygen. But, while 
that need or appetence gives rise in the living beings 
to more or less elaborate, more or less effectual varieties 
of reactions, manifestly connected with that appetence, 
the flame of the candle combines with oxygen and dies 
as the supply of it fails, but does nothing else that is 
relevant. 

The nature of that difference is the same whatever 
kind of organic or inorganic reaction we consider. 

We are able to construct amazing machines which not 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 41 

only serve a definite purpose, perform definite acts, but 
go through the successive steps of a complex performance 
in view of an ultimate result ; nay, which actually cope 
with the event of an occasional failure, adjust themselves 
to accidental circumstances. But there is no parallel 
between those machines imagine them to be a thousand 
times more wonderful and efficient than they are and 
an organic reaction. For all the purposes, however 
devious, which the machine fulfils are purposes which 
have been put into the structure of the machine by 
ourselves. They are not ulterior purposes of the machine, 
but of ourselves who made it. And however wonderful 
a machine may be, we can be quite sure that all the 
purposes it appears to manifest and the variety of situations 
with which it is capable of coping have, every one of 
them, been foreseen, not by . the machine, but by the 
machine-maker ; and in so far as they represent means 
to ends, those ends are not at all those of the machine, 
but of the maker of the machine. A machine is merely 
a prolongation of human action. 

So likewise the same distinctive difference between 
inorganic action and that of living organisms holds good 
of the most primitive and rudimentary acts of the latter 
as of the most elaborate, of any of those reactions in 
living organisms which we speak of a? physiological as 
of the most acute or the most idealistic behaviour of a 
human being. In the crude example which we considered 
that character was exhibited in a much more marked 
and effectual form by the rotifer, a primitive unicellular 
organism corresponding to the cells which compose the 
organs of higher organisms, than by the bird or by the 
mammal. 

Physiological science aims at explaining all the operations 
performed by the various organs and tissues of the body 
in terms of our knowledge of physical and chemical 
processes. All physiological explanation consists in such 
a subsumption, and to that aim and method is due the 



42 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

enormous extension in our knowledge of physiological 
function. But great as that development has been, and 
elaborate as are now our data concerning every observable 
physiological operation of the organism, it so happens 
that in no single instance has any physiological function 
been entirely reduced to terms of purely physical and 
chemical actions. Even simple processes which, on the 
face of them, seemed quite susceptible of a complete 
physical description, and were thought to have been so 
accounted for, are found on further investigation to 
involve factors not subsumable under ordinary physical 
laws. The ascent of sap in the vessels of plants, for 
instance, is seemingly quite intelligible by taking into 
account the suction produced by evaporation in the 
leaves, the pressure in turgid roots, and the capillary 
forces ; but it is found to be carried out mainly by con- 
tractions of the cell- walls of the vessels. Absorption 
through the walls of intestinal and other cells appears 
to be a straight-out case of osmosis through a membrane ; 
but the process is not governed by the laws of osmosis, 
but by a selective action exercised by each cell ; the cells 
are not fed, they feed themselves. No case of reduction 
of physiological function to physical terms has been 
discovered. That circumstance might, of course, be pure 
coincidence ; and we should have no right, considering 
the complexity of organic action, to taunt physiological 
science with the fact, and to say that because no physio- 
logical operation has been so analysed, it can therefore 
never be so analysed. But the position is somewhat 
different when we observe that the residuum of 
mechanically unexplained physiological action presents 
precisely that character which is peculiar to organic 
action and which distinguishes all the reactions of living 
things from those of inorganic objects. 

We are not, then, to set down physiological action 
with mechanical action under one head, and ' mental ' 
action under another, but inorganic action under one, 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 43 

and both physiological and mental under another ; for 
there is precisely the same distinction between the 
physiological and the mechanical type as there is between 
the latter and the mental type of behaviour. So far as 
respects that distinction between mechanical and non- 
mechanical, the line of demarcation is not between mental 
and physiological, but between living and non-living ; 
and that other line of demarcation which we choose to 
draw between physiological performances, biochemical 
reactions, and conduct muscularly exteriorized, is quite 
arbitrary and unjustified by the facts. The one and 
the other order of reactions are distinguished from 
mechanical processes by the same differences. 

Those differences are quite definite, but our ways of 
conceiving and describing them are not. 

The description which first presents itself to our mind 
is to say that organic reactions are purposive, and inorganic 
reactions are not. When putting the matter in that way 
we are applying to all organic actions the terms of a very 
special form of our own action, and one, moreover, which 
we have interpreted inaccurately. We are not actuated 
by purposes, we are actuated by impulses. To have an 
ideal end in view is only one way, one very special method, 
of satisfying our impulses. We interpret by means of 
our intellect, and in doing so our intellect, which is itself 
an instrument of our impulses, imports into the inter- 
pretation its own mode of operation as an instrument, 
in the form of an ideal end. And the same intellectual 
operation will lead us to describe the reactions of the 
plant-cell of the protozoon as ' purposive,' and will lead 
us to regard every efficient cause as a final cause. But 
that importation of our intellectual method into every 
mode of action is manifestly fallacious ; for what is meant 
by the purposive method is to have ' a purpose in view,' 
and not only can we not suppose the plant-cell, the 
infusorian to have ' a purpose in view,' but in the majority 
of our own actions we ourselves have no ' purpose in 



44 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

view.' And when we do, that purpose is not at all the 
efficient cause of our actions, but a very subsidiary mode 
of obtaining the means of satisfaction of impulses which 
have no ' purpose in view.' That extension of a concept 
derived from a special mode of action to all action leads 
inevitably to confusing inconsistencies. For it leads us 
to regard all those organic reactions which are exactly 
similar to those of our actions that make use of an intellec- 
tual purpose as ' purposive,' while we are at the same time 
compelled to declare that they have no purpose in view. 

In order to express that peculiarly self-contradictory 
conception we have invented the words ' adaptation,' 
' adapted,' ' adaptive.' Those words are an obvious 
subterfuge to shuffle out of the incongruous conception 
of a ' purposive ' action that has no purpose in view. 
They are, however regarded, ambiguous. We describe 
the actions of a living organism as being ' adapted.' 
' Adapted ' to what ? ' To external circumstances ' is 
the usual answer. But ' adapted to external circum- 
stances ' means nothing at all unless certain needs, 
requirements, interests, impulses of the organism which 
adapts itself, be postulated. The reactions of a living 
organism are not adapted to external circumstances only, 
but to the actuating impulses of the organism. What is 
called adaptation is the adjustment of the reaction of 
the organism to both terms, to the external circumstances 
and to its own impulse and disposition. 

Animals occasionally act foolishly, and so do even 
human beings ; their actions are not adapted at all. The 
statement is therefore modified by saying that they are 
' adaptive,' that they tend, albeit ineffectually, to become 
adapted. But some acts are not even adaptive the 
flight of the moth into the flame, for instance, the roar 
of the hungry lion, the yapping of the terrier at a rabbit. 

The fact is that the teleological character which we 
introduce into all our descriptions of organic reactions 
is not a fundamental, original and innate character of 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 45 

the reactions of life. It is true that an enormous majority 
of those reactions do manifest that relation of means 
to an end, and that numberless structural organs and 
complex functions are permanent and elaborate devices 
to promote by an intricate apparatus of means the ends 
of life in the individual and in the race. But those organs, 
those functions, and the whole teleological operation of 
organic reaction, are the result of a long process of de- 
velopment. That teleological operation is the effect of 
a much simpler mode of action out of which it has grown. 
That mode of action which characterizes organic as opposed 
to inorganic reactions is not the power of adaptation, but 
the power of modification. 

If we study the behaviour of the simpler organisms 
we at once perceive that their power of adaptation simply 
means the power of altering their behaviour. If an 
infusorian freely swimming in a microscopic aquarium 
comes upon an obstacle, such as the glass wall of the 
vessel, it recedes and alters its direction by a small angle ; 
if once more it collides with the obstacle, its direction 
is again modified by a few degrees, until by successive 
repetitions of the process it comes to be reversed. Such 
a manoeuvre is typical of the procedure of all organic 
reactions. It is what has been aptly called by Lloyd- 
Morgan the process of Trial and Error. If infusorians or 
other micro-organisms are placed on a glass plate the 
various parts of which are heated to varying degrees of 
temperature, the organisms will ultimately be found to 
be collected in that portion of the plate which offers the 
most suitable temperature for their development, the 
' optimum temperature,' as it is called. That result is 
a definite adaptation, but if we observe the manner in 
which it is brought about we shall find that it is exactly 
similar to that followed by the infusorian when colliding 
with an obstacle. Each infusorian alters the direction of 
its motion whenever it passes from a more comfortable to 
a less comfortable temperature, until all are ultimately 



46 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

collected in the region of optimum temperature. There 
is, it may be urged, a certain amount of adaptive action 
in the fact that conditions which are injurious produce a 
reaction different from those which are favourable. But 
that distinction is, as we shall see, a necessary consequence 
of the variability of reaction, for injurious conditions 
cause a negative variation of those activities upon which 
they act injuriously, while favourable conditions stimulate 
them. 

The teleological power of adaptability is, then, a 
derivative product of the more elementary power of 
modification. And it is this power of modifying their 
reactions which constitutes the essential distinction 
between the mode of action of living organisms and that 
of inorganic systems. 

Now there is a very good reason why living organisms 
have the power of modifying their reactions and inorganic 
systems have not. In living organisms any reaction can 
be repeated over and over again by the same reacting 
system, while no reaction can ever be repeated a second 
time by the same inorganic system, for the latter is, so 
far as the particular reaction is concerned, completely 
destroyed by every reaction in which it takes part. 

The cause of the actions of inorganic objects is not 
known. Scientists to-day call it ' energy.' That is only 
a word which means ' action,' or ' activity,' and adds 
nothing to our knowledge of the fact that all objects act 
and move. Since it is the ultimate fact of analysis, 
corresponding to the old categories of ' being ' or ' sub- 
stance,' it cannot be explained in terms of an ulterior 
concept. 

Although physical science cannot explain the nature of 
energy, it has demonstrated a very important fact con- 
cerning it, and illustrated some of the most abstract 
conceptions of Aristotelian metaphysics. Energy is a 
fixed quantity that can be measured. It can exist in 
a latent, potential state, and it can be liberated and act. 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 47 

The expression ' potential energy ' is, like much of 
the phraseology of science, highly disputable. Physical 
investigators have shed a flood of light on metaphysical 
conceptions while often displaying a pathetic simplicity 
in regard to metaphysical precision. ' Potential energy ' 
is tantamount to ' inactive activity/ which is an absurd 
contradiction in terms. But ' potential energy ' is, in 
fact, not inactive at all. It is abundantly employed in 
the maintenance of the configuration of the system which 
is supposed to ' contain ' it in a latent state. Energy 
is ' stored ' within a system by being employed in holding 
together the configuration, the form of that system. 
The ' potential energy ' of a stone on a cliff, of a head 
of water, of a Leyden jar, of a complex molecule, is active 
in the stresses, masses, electric charges, chemical affinities, 
attractions, represented by the positional relation of the 
parts of those configurations. And those stresses, masses, 
etc., those apparently static qualities of material objects, 
are analysable into actual movements. The ' latent ' or 
' potential ' state differs only from the active or ' kinetic ' 
in that its operation is circumscribed within the limits 
of a system theoretically isolated from the rest of the 
universe. The energy which is potential in the lump of 
iron is kinetic in its molecules ; that which is potential 
in its molecules is kinetic in its atoms, and so forth. So 
that the opposition between potential and kinetic energy 
is only relative. 

The concepts ' potential,' ' power,' ' disposition,' ' ten- 
dency,' etc. to which may be added those represented 
by the words ' agent,' ' doer,' and the like belong to 
the category oijorm. The energy of the physicist remains 
unchanging in quantity ; the manner in which that 
energy is distributed and circumscribed within a ' thing,' 
a given system of energy, a given ' agent,' is the form of 
that energy. It is that form alone which is significant, 
which constitutes differences, qualities. Energy, being 
regarded as a uniform unchanging quantity, can have no 



48 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

values because there are in it no differences. Destroy 
the form, you destroy the ' thing,' the object, the piece 
of coal, the molecule, the atom, and convert it into kinetic 
energy, into action. We can break up most objects into 
gaseous molecules ; by more powerful agencies those 
molecules can in turn be broken up until nothing massive 
and formed remains. The energy which by its disposition 
constituted the system is redistributed into new configura- 
tions. The ' thing ' is completely converted into action. 

Whenever a configuration of potential energy is trans- 
formed into kinetic energy, that configuration is destroyed. 
Every system of energy which reacts comes to an end 
in that reaction ; the reaction cannot be repeated by 
the same configuration. When a stone falls from a cliff, 
the configuration, stone-earth-ether, is destroyed. The 
reaction can only be repeated by building up the con- 
figuration anew, that is, by carrying the stone back to 
the top of the cliff. A configuration of energy does not, 
of course, correspond to what we call an object ; the latter 
being a purely arbitrary delimitation effected in relation 
to our own uses and actions. The sun, the stars, which 
radiate heat and light into space, are thereby destroyed. 
We never twice see the same sun, the same star, but only 
what is left of them after each reaction in which the 
whole system giving rise to that reaction is consumed. 
In the machines which we make the energy is supplied 
by our winding them up, or providing them with fuel. 

The same holds good of the chemical reactions of 
molecular systems. When a salt reacts with an acid, 
the salt and the acid are destroyed, and a new configuration 
is formed. Radium is destroyed by giving off energy 
and becoming converted into helium. 

No inorganic system can react without its configuration, 
its form being destroyed by that reaction ; and therefore 
no reaction can ever be repeated by the same configuration 
of energy, by the same ' agent.' 

Those things which scientists speak of as electrons, 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 49 

magnetons, atoms, molecules, multi-molecules, are systems 
of energy, of latent power. The simpler the constitution 
of those systems, the stronger the bonds by which the 
energy is tied within them ; the more complex the 
aggregate, the weaker the bonds, the more labile and 
unstable the configuration of energy. Simple substances, 
like hydrogen, are only broken up under very special 
conditions, as in the photosphere of the sun where the 
spectroscope shows us the presence of hydrogen resolved 
into single atoms, proto-hydrogen. ' Elements ' of com- 
plex structure, of high atomic weight, such as uranium, 
thorium, radium, are comparatively unstable, and are 
constantly being broken down with the release of energy. 
Still more complex aggregates, such as the relatively huge 
organic molecules, are in a state of unstable equilibrium, 
and readily become transformed, giving forth energy. 
Those substances called colloids are composed of a number 
of molecules loosely united into multi-molecules ; a portion 
of their energy is constantly and slowly active, and, owing 
to the extreme variety of affinities of the carbon atom, 
an enormous diversity of reactions and changes can 
proceed simultaneously within the system. 

Regarded from a purely chemico-physical point of view, 
living systems of energy are colloids of the highest degree 
of complexity, instability and diversity of reactions. 
Those conditions give rise to entirely new possibilities. 
Their reactions consist, like all other chemical reactions, 
in the liberation of kinetic energy derived from the destruc- 
tion of the internal configuration in which that energy 
was potential. But only a portion of the system is thus 
broken down in every reaction. The large reserves of 
energy which are maintained in those portions of the 
system which do not take direct part in the reaction are 
employed in simultaneous reactions. As a result of those 
correlated reactions the configuration destroyed by each 
reaction is built up anew from the reserve energy of the 
system, and from energy absorbed from the surrounding 

4 



50 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

world ; the system of potential energy winds itself up as 
fast as it runs down ; it stokes itself, feeds. Thus the 
form, the configuration of the system, is maintained 
throughout the stream of changes. What cannot take 
place in any other physical or chemical system in the 
world can consequently take place here : a reaction can 
be repeated over and over again by the same configuration 
of energy. 

From that circumstance momentous consequences follow. 
The configuration which is rebuilt after its destruction 
in a reaction is never exactly the same as it was before ; 
it is modified by the reaction. The second reaction will 
therefore differ from the first. If the first reaction has 
produced an effect favourable to the activity of the 
configuration of energy involved in that reaction, the 
subsequent reaction will be more powerful than the first. 
If, on the contrary, the effect of the first reaction has 
been unfavourable to the configuration which produced 
it, the activity of the latter will necessarily be diminished 
on a repetition of the reaction. By repetition of the 
process a continuous and increasing modification in the 
reaction takes place. The original reaction may become 
very much prompter and intensified, or it may disappear 
altogether. The system will not react as it did at first ; 
it will react in some other way. Its reaction has become 
modified. And by the elimination of reactions which 
lessen the power of the system to rebuild the destroyed 
configuration, its reaction will become adapted. 

In our own experience the concomitant of a modification 
in our reactions is a feeling, a feeling of comfort or dis- 
comfort, of pleasure or pain. Feelings, pleasure and pain, 
do not cause us to act, they are not the motive power 
of our actions, but they cause us to modify our actions. 

Human thought has for ages made a variety of sup- 
positions to account for the differences in behaviour of 
living beings and inorganic objects. The most prevalent 
has been that of a separate principle, either confined to 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 51 

human beings (the soul), or common to all living things 
(the vital force). That solution by means of a special 
' virtue,' or deus ex machina, is, of course, the easiest. 
It costs nothing ; and its value as an explanation is 
exactly proportional to its intellectual cost. But, directly 
connected with its complete impotence to explain any- 
thing, is the prolific power it possesses of bringing into 
existence teeming multitudes of insoluble riddles, incon- 
gruities and flat self-contradictions, so that a very large 
proportion of the pseudo-problems of metaphysics is the 
direct progeny of that felicitous solution. That unsatis- 
factory state of things has accordingly caused many at 
various times to put forward the opposite supposition, 
namely, that the cause of the actions of living beings, 
including men and women, is the same as the cause of 
the actions of inorganic objects. 

That rival theory has assumed two main forms. Some, 
deluded by their opponents' own conception of matter, 
have professed to regard feelings as products or effects 
of the movements of material particles, much to the 
amusement of those who moved their arms by means 
of their thoughts. Some Greek thinkers, such as the 
philosophers of the Eleatic school, Parmenides, and later 
Empedocles, who lived at a time when epistemological 
distinctions were still somewhat hazy, and, accordingly, 
the Cartesian epistemological misconception of dualism had 
not yet brought confusion on human thought, also held 
the view that all activities, whether organic or inorganic, 
have a common cause. And in order to do so consistently, 
they and those who have followed them felt themselves 
compelled to assume that inorganic objects have feelings. 

That assumption is not in accordance with our own 
psychological experience. For feeling in ourselves only 
accompanies a modification in our activity, and the 
activity of inorganic objects is never modified. We only 
experience a feeling when a change in the relation of our 
activities to those of the surrounding world calls for a 



52 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

change in our mode of action. Where no such change 
is called for, when our surroundings are perfectly ' normal ' 
and habitual, so that we react to them by well-established 
and unmodified reactions, those reactions take place 
without being accompanied by feeling, ' automatically ' 
and unconsciously. The principle of Hobbes, the ' Law 
of relativity,' as it is called, " Idem semper sentire et non 
sentire ad idem recidunt," is one of the best established 
principles of psychology. It has been disputed, by 
William James, for instance, who calls it a ' superstition,' 
and suggests that one might have the same old pain 
throughout eternity. The Christian Fathers were better 
psychologists ; they recognized the necessity of invoking 
a miracle in order to make possible the pains of eternal 
punishment. All feeling is a change from the normal 
equilibrium. When that equilibrium is disturbed two 
things may happen : the organism may adapt itself to 
the new conditions, or it may fail to adapt itself. In the 
first case those conditions become in turn ' normal ' and 
cease to exist as feeling ; in the second the feeling organism 
itself ceases to exist. Innumerable activities take place 
in us unaccompanied by any feeling so long as the con- 
ditions of their operation remain unchanged ; but let a 
change take place in those conditions of our physiological 
and automatic activity, and at once a lively feeling of 
discomfort is experienced. 

Feeling is in ourselves entirely restricted to a very 
limited aspect of our activity. We have seen that neither 
the cause of our actions nor the end to which they are 
directed is represented in our consciousness. That con- 
sciousness is exclusively confined to the intervening 
process of employing means towards the satisfaction of 
the impulses which bring about our actions. ' Means/ 
' purposes ' are nothing else than the cognitive method of 
modifying our reactions. That method constitutes an 
abbreviation of, and an improvement on, that of modifi- 
cation by trial and error under the guidance of pure feeling 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 53 

of comfort or discomfort. It is only in the face of a 
situation that is new that the operation of that intercalated 
process of instrumentality is called for. Consciousness, 
whether cognitive or affective, is only associated with 
such a change in the conditions of our activities as requires 
a modification of those activities. Where those conditions 
contain no element of novelty they are dealt with un- 
consciously and anaesthetically by the operation of our 
established reactions. 

Suppose that we do assume that the cause of the 
activities of inorganic objects is exactly similar to that 
of our own, and that we can therefore analyse those 
actions psychologically on the analogy of our own feelings 
in just the same way as we analyse the behaviour of living 
things. If we apply the analogy accurately, we shall not 
be able to introduce any feeling into the transaction. 
For feeling does not exist in ourselves except as the con- 
comitant of modification of reaction ; and no inorganic 
reaction ever is or ever can be modified, because the 
system of energy that gives rise to it is completely destroyed 
in the reaction itself. Feeling only occurs in the interval 
between the coming into operation of an unconscious 
latent impulse at the call of an occasion for that operation, 
and the consummation of that impulse ; in inorganic 
reactions there is no such interval. There is no interval 
between the operation of a cause, the contact of a reagent, 
for instance, and the effect or reaction which is brought 
about. There is no intercalated process between cause 
and effect ; there are no instrumental purposes, no means, 
in the operation of inorganic energy. Ascribe consciousness 
to the ' affinity ' of hydrogen for oxygen, conceive it to 
be a want, a desire, that consciousness will not come into 
being except in the presence of oxygen, and it will cease 
to be as the reaction is effected, that is to say, at the same 
moment. There is no reaction-time in inorganic processes ; 
where a reaction appears to occupy a certain time, that is 
merely due to its successive diffusion to various parts ; 



54 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

the reaction is extended in space but not protended in 
time. In ourselves every conscious process is protended 
in time, it must last an appreciable time in order to be 
conscious at all. No conscious process known in our 
experience could take place under the conditions of 
inorganic reaction. 

Those, then, who have supposed that if the cause of 
inorganic reactions is of the same nature as that of the 
reactions of living organisms, feeling must be postulated 
to be a concomitant of the former, were mistaken, and 
were misled by an insufficient knowledge of the conditions 
of our own psychic experience. On the analogy of our 
own psychology no such assumption is justified. 

The movements of the inorganic world are said to 
' obey ' certain physical and chemical ' laws.' The ex- 
pression is, of course, highly metaphorical. What any 
scientist understands to-day by that expression is that 
the activities manifested by material bodies are observed 
to conform invariably to certain formulas which we have 
been able to induce from the observation of those activities, 
and which are, doubtless, partial aspects of wider uni- 
formities. But when the phrase ' to obey a natural law ' 
first came into use in the seventeenth century it was 
intended to have a pious connotation. It was deliberately 
meant to suggest that material bodies actually ' obeyed ' 
a ' law ' imposed upon them by the fiat of an Almighty 
Creator. That ' obedience ' was supposed to convey a 
subtle implication of some sort of homage, of worship, 
of acknowledgment of supremacy offered by creation to 
its Maker. Conformity to natural law, that is, mechanism, 
was by our pious forefathers made a subject of religious 
edification ; that mode of interpretation being designed 
to rob the uniformity of mechanical processes of the 
lurking danger arising from the antithesis to the super- 
natural and miraculous. It was an animistic metaphor. 

Instead of using that animistic metaphor, we might 
with equal propriety say that physical activities are 



ORGANIC AND INORGANIC ACTION 55 

manifestations of impulses to act in certain ways. The 
latter metaphor would be considerably more accurate as 
a statement of fact free from assumption ; for all that 
we directly know is that material objects act, and that 
activity can only be conceived as the manifestation of 
some inherent disposition to act. But a disposition to 
act does not imply feeling, which is only found in con- 
junction with the modification of action. No modification 
can take place in the activity of inorganic systems, which 
is arrested and at an end in the instant that their measured 
quantity of energy is balanced ; no reserve of energy can 
permit of persistence in the operation of the tendency. 
Only by the conative disposition of a living organism, 
which is not destroyed by its reaction, which renews 
itself, and can repeat, modify, its operation, can experience 
be accumulated and applied. In the delicate rhythmic 
equilibrium of that permanent instability of living matter 
were probably offered for the first time the necessary 
conditions of consciousness, the possibilities of feeling. 



CHAPTER III 

FEELING AND COGNITION 

IT is on presentations, sensory or conceptual, on thought, 
on cognitive objects and processes, that our consciousness 
is focused. But another form of conscious experience 
much more fundamental than cognition, though thrust 
by it into the penumbra of our consciousness, is invariably 
present pure feeling, affective feeling. 

There is no such thing as knowledge, as cognition pure 
and simple ; every cognition is embedded in a matrix 
of affective feeling. Whenever an object, an event, is 
present to the mind, through the senses or in thought, 
whenever it is cognized, there is much more in that 
experience than the mere fact of cognition, the mere fact 
that the object is apprehended as being such. You 
perceive a material object, say, to be big, hard, of a par- 
ticular form and colour. Those features, whatever your 
theory of perception, whatever translation they may 
undergo in passing through your sensual means of investi- 
gation, are counted by you as characters of the object 
itself, characters of it, in truth, as the object of your 
action. But that object in addition strikes you as inter- 
esting or uninteresting, pleasant or unpleasant, beautiful 
or ugly ; it makes on you an impression over and above 
those features which you register as its characters. And, 
as a matter of fact, you will not trouble to note the first 
set of qualities at all distinctly and minutely unless the 
object first makes its appeal to you by virtue of some 
interest, of some use, of some pleasantness or danger, 

56 



FEELING AND COGNITION 57 

which in some way affects you, and directs your attention 
to it and to those descriptive characters which you note. 
The two sets of adjectives differ radically in their purport. 
The interestingness, the usefulness, the pleasantness, the 
beauty of the object are not regarded by you as intrinsic 
qualities of the object, like its shape and colour ; they are 
expressions of values which the object bears in relation 
to certain needs, desires, interests, tastes, likes and dis- 
likes, which constitute your attitude towards it. The 
first set of qualities is cognitive, the second affective. 

A fact is never merely registered, it commoves and 
colours our feelings. The experience which is utterly 
drab, trivial, blank and meaningless, is by that very 
insipidity framed in its particular feeling-tone. 

The fact is disguised and obscured in the complexity 
of our experience. Countless sense-impressions pour in 
upon us every second, and we should in most instances 
be at a loss to assign an affective value to those experiences 
which seem to be thrust upon us without our asking. 

The eye it cannot choose but see, 

We cannot bid the ear be still, 
Our bodies feel where'er they be. 

Against or with our will. 

WORDSWORTH. 

It appears to us that we are essentially experiencing, 
sentient beings continuously subjected from all quarters 
to a somewhat tedious bombardment of sensations, most 
of which are of little interest to us and have some trouble 
in attracting our attention at all, in making us observant. 
They are to us neither painful nor pleasant, beautiful 
or ugly. But the illusion for such it is of a bombard- 
ment by indifferent sensations is the effect of a highly 
elaborated development of sense organs which have become 
posted all about our organism to keep watch not at all 
for purposes of idle curiosity, but in view of issues of 
life and death over the environment. And, irrelevant 
as much of the information appears to be which those 



58 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

watchful sentinels transmit, we, as a matter of fact, 
only take account of just those sensory data which, in 
respect of some vital interest or present purpose, are 
significant. In order to engage our attention at all, in 
order to be perceived, they must possess that affective 
value, a relation of some kind to what, for the present, 
we deem our interest. No sensation enters our conscious- 
ness except by virtue of its affective value. So far as 
sensory experience goes, the rolling landscape of field and 
sky amid which you are disporting yourself is much the 
same for you, for the ploughman who is leading his team 
on yonder hill, for his horses, for your dog, and for those 
grazing sheep. Sense-organs are virtually identical in all 
those mammals ; but the noted sensations, the sensory 
bombardment, differs nevertheless hugely in you, the 
ploughing peasant, the dog, the horses, the sheep. From 
the world of sensation, that only is abstracted by each 
which has value in terms of active interests. Originally 
it is only in view of that interest, in view of a purpose 
useful to us, of an impulse that urges us, that the entire 
apparatus of sense-organs, of cognition, that seems to 
thrust upon us a multitude of indifferent sensations has 
come into being at all, and developed into its present 
illusory form. 

When we are adopting a scientific attitude, when of 
set purpose we apply ourselves to investigate and describe 
an object, as part, say, of an imposed task, we seem 
concerned purely with the quale of the thing, our attitude 
is objective and realistic. But that very attitude assigns 
to the object of our inquiry a new value ; our abstract, 
disinterested, detached investigation, our strenuous effort 
to eliminate the ' personal equation/ to be ' objective,' 
is inspired by desire for accurate truth ; and the passion 
for truth is, after all, a passion. The quale of our object 
becomes itself an affective value, a significance in terms 
of our desire, our purpose, our conation. 

When you are idly and helplessly lying in a bed of 



FEELING AND COGNITION 59 

convalescence, the pattern of the wall-paper, the stains 
of the ceiling, which you never before noticed, obtrude 
themselves upon you with such annoying insistence only 
by virtue of your shrinking from the blank of your 
existence, of your desire for some exercise and interest ; 
the rows of conventional flowers become exasperating 
from the penury of satisfaction which they afford to those 
desires that are aroused in you by returning strength. 

Pure cognitive experience does not exist ; cognition 
is always a cognito-affective experience. It consists of 
a presented object and of the affective value of that 
object ; of knowledge, and of the affective significance 
to the organisms of that knowledge. 

Every presentation is a feeling though every feeling 
is not a presentation. In sensory perception the complex 
object presented, and compounded not only of the actual 
sensations, but also of memories and apperceptions which 
make up its significance, has an affective value of its 
own apart from that of the sensations which present it. 
But those sensations themselves are feelings, and, as 
feelings, have their own affective value. Hence many 
untrained thinkers, and also some trained and professed 
thinkers, experience some difficulty in drawing a clear 
distinction between the cognitive element of presentation 
and the affective one of pure feeling, between a pain, say, 
and a sensation. We commonly speak of a ' sensation 
of pain.' The fact is that at that primordial level the 
cognitive and affective elements are so intimately blended 
as to coalesce. A cognitive sensation, such as that which 
you experience when cautiously exploring the temperature 
of the handle of a kettle, will pass by a rapid transition 
into a sharp pain if you grasp the handle and find it to 
be too hot. A sensation is, in fact, nothing else than an 
affective feeling thus cautiously and tentatively put to 
an exploratory use ; it is a feeling adapted to cognitive 
and presentative purposes. And, as such, it may rise 
to such affective intensity that its presentational function 



60 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

is disregarded and obliterated in the urgency of the 
affective commotion. The most delicate discriminating 
sensation is as much a feeling as a burn, or a blow on the 
head ; it is only in the use that the exploratory feeling 
of sensation is put to that the distinction lies. To exercise 
its cognitive function the feeling must be so attenuated, 
must by the keenness of its search so forestall actual 
pain, that no affective value of its own shall interfere 
with the cognitive operation. All cognition, from sensation 
up to the highest functions of abstract thought, demands 
that detachment of disinterestedness in the feeling through 
which it is obtained ; its cognitive efficiency depends upon 
the checking of its affective value by a cognitive effort. 

Primitively all affection reduces itself to the feelings 
of pleasantness and unpleasantness, pleasure and pain, 
comfort and discomfort. Pleasure and pain physical 
pleasure and pain, of course are the primary affections 
of which all other feelings whatsoever, up to our highest 
values, emotional, artistic, intellectual, or moral, are 
derivatives. Common estimation rightly recognizes the 
fundamental identity of two psychic states seemingly 
very widely different a physical pain and a grief, the 
pain of a burn and that of the loss of a beloved. (A 
physical pain ! that is a very glaring contradiction ; as 
if a pain could be physical, a feeling material !) The 
physiological pain in a limb or a viscus is clearly the 
obstruction of its function, the interference with its activity, 
its partial destruction. The emotion of anguish caused by 
a scrap of paper that brings the news of a ' Nevermore,' 
is in exactly the same relation to the conations of our 
conceptual being as the physiological pain caused by 
scalding water to the conation of our dermal tissues. 

The affective quality of experience shades off in intensity 
from the extreme throes of agony to that faint affective 
colouring which our surroundings cast upon us, which is 
perhaps hardly noticed, and which seems to approach, 
but never in reality reaches, a neutral state of indifference. 



FEELING AND COGNITION 61 

You may take no particular account of the impression 
which the room into which you are shown produces upon 
you, whether it is satisfying or offensive, cheerful or 
depressing ; but to the sensory impression which it pro- 
duces there corresponds a subtle affective tone which, 
even more than the matter-of-fact features which you may 
note, constitutes their effect upon you. 

Language, being a descriptive, and therefore a purely 
cognitive, symbolism, can never express feeling ; it can 
at most, like all art, suggest it. A feeling that is named 
is no longer a feeling, it is the presentation of a feeling, 
a mere cognition. When feeling is overwhelming and 
bursts into expression, our polished and refined instrument 
of articulate diction breaks down into inarticulate ejacula- 
tions, into the primitive cries and yells of the beast. 
Hence language is necessarily very meagre in its nomen- 
clature of affective states, in contrast with the subtlety 
and elaboration of its cognitive distinctions. It has names 
only for affective states raised to the superlative degree 
pain, anger, surprise, fear, disgust, and so forth. Our 
ordinary affective states are far too delicate and subtle 
to be distinguished by such coarse labels. It is the 
province of art to convey by suggestive means an affective 
colouring which is not to be set down in the language 
of scientific description. 

And our thought which is bound down to the symbolism 
of language is thereby rendered unobservant of our own 
feelings, so that we remain for the most part incognizant 
of them unless they force themselves upon us by rising 
to an unusual pitch. They colour our life, our moods, 
and shape our activity without being taken note of by 
our cognitive word-consciousness ; and we marvel at 
the artist when he reveals to us our own unnoticed 
feelings. 

All feeling, whether a * physical ' feeling or an ineffable 
shade of emotional significance, is the effect of whatever 
acts upon us. Upon ' us ' that is to say, upon our 



62 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

own activities, our impulses and dispositions to activity. 
It is the modification of those dispositions, their satisfaction 
and stimulation, their checking and dissatisfaction, the 
diversified selective action of all influences ' physical ' or 
presentative upon the total mass of the conative ten- 
dencies which constitute our being as a source of action. 
Crude physiological pain intermingled with sensation itself, 
if crude primary organic needs are at stake ; sublimated 
emotional values if it is those elaborately cultivated 
tastes that our culture has created, which are involved ; 
interests which in a larger or smaller measure arrest our 
attention if cognition itself is our purpose of the moment. 
The affective colouring of any experience is the chord 
which that experience strikes on the manifold tendencies 
of our being. As the conative tendencies involved become 
more abstract, more far-reaching in their glance before 
and after, more complex in their combinations, appercep- 
tions and associations, affective values become correspond- 
ingly diversified and sublimated. There is much similarity 
between one crude physiological pain and another, between 
the pain of a stab, say, or that of a scald ; the exact savour 
and quality of an emotional value, of the feeling which 
a landscape, a book, a man, a political event, a situation, 
awakens in us, how it strikes us, faintly or forcibly, 
according to the directness of our interest in it, is a 
complex, elusive, ineffable feeling-tone, which calls for 
the utmost acuteness of psychological observation to 
seize and analyse, which it is the peculiar task of the 
deftest art to render and suggest. But all, from the 
crudest pain to violent or faint emotion and sentimental 
colouring of experience, are affections of our conative 
dispositions. 

An affection, a feeling, an emotion, is, then, the ex- 
periential obverse of those conative dispositions, their 
mould, their form and pressure in consciousness, when 
they are checked or intensified ; it is the stimulation 
or obstruction of a conative tendency. That affective 



FEELING AND COGNITION 68 

value is the only value, is the only form in which a conative 
tendency or disposition is represented in consciousness. 
We do not know any conative tendency directly as such ; 
that lies outside the sphere of consciousness. We only 
know its imprint in feeling, in the experience of pleasure 
or pain, in fhe variety of our affective states. And it 
is in that sense that the world of affective values, of 
emotions, is the truest world, and art the truest truth : 
we deal there with the essentials and fundamentals of 
our being. 

Pure feeling, affective values, the breaking of an 
obstructed conation into consciousness is genetically the 
first aspect and element of consciousness, and is in truth 
the only one of which all others are derivative. Conscious- 
ness came into the world as pain. Feeling serves to guide 
the activities of life. Conditions that are favourable to 
its conative impulses are represented in consciousness by 
a pleasurable feeling and existing activity is stimulated ; 
conditions that are unfavourable to the activity of those 
impulses are represented by a feeling of discomfort, of 
pain, and existing activities are inhibited. Such is the 
very simple mechanism of all living reaction. It is the 
whole mechanism of the behaviour of living things, of 
psychic action ; all the rest is superadded elaboration. 
Feeling, pure feeling of comfort or discomfort, without 
any element of cognition, without any apprehension of 
an objective quality in the environment, is all that is 
essentially necessary assuming any psychism to be 
necessary to the operation of the conations of life, to 
the modification of reaction. And, as a matter of fact, 
that is all the psychism which, if we may judge of it by 
their behaviour, is to be found in the simpler forms of 
life. It is all the psychic mechanism of the human infant, 
which is a purely affective being. Nor is the process 
essentially different in our own life and behaviour ; all 
the apparatus of our cognitive powers and experience, 
sensations, concepts, thoughts, exists solely in the service 



64 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of our impulses and of their conscious representation 
in feeling. 

Cognition, as distinguished from affection or pure 
feeling, is not an essential, an indispensable element 
in the process of life ; and consequently it is not a 
primordial, original and innate feature of it. Cognition 
is a luxury. All cognitive processes, from the simplest 
form of sensation onwards, are an elaboration, an 
improvement, an acquired character which has developed 
out of non-cognitive forms of life and mind. They are, 
in fact, modified feelings. 

All our psychological science has grown from the point 
of view of a cognitive, sensational and intellectualistic, 
attitude. That inveterate bias has caused all psychological 
problems to be approached from the starting-point of 
cognitive processes, of sensation with Locke and the 
sensationalists, of the pure intellect with Kant and the 
intellectualists ; while the conative activities of living 
beings were set aside as of secondary interest, and were 
left to be dealt with by Professors of Virtue. 

Considered from the purely psychological standpoint, 
the assumption that cognition is the starting-point of 
psychism is false. No cognition is ' given,' no cognitive 
experience is thrust upon us. On the contrary, of the 
myriad possibilities of experience that assail our organism 
at every moment we sense nothing, we know nothing 
but what we desire to know, what it interests us to know. 
The mind is not a judge, comfortably seated, as it were, 
in its judgment-seat, before whom passes an endless 
procession of witnesses offering ' the testimony of the 
senses.' It forcibly drags by its own exertions the witnesses 
it requires into the limelight of consciousness. 

If we consider the organism and the ambient universe 
from a physical point of view, there is no agency in the 
latter that does not in some manner affect the organism, 
whether it be sensed or no. It matters not whether 
that organism be a philosopher, an amoeba, or a plant ; 



FEELING AND COGNITION 65 

it is part of the physical universe, and we are bound 
to assume that every ether-wave, every gravitational 
force, every molecular disturbance, every molar motion in 
that universe has, to a greater or a less degree, an inevitable 
physical effect upon the organism as a physical system. 
The revolutions of the moons of Jupiter affect the molecules 
of my brain. Unless we set aside every physical conception, 
every change and agency in the physical world must needs 
have its repercussion in the organism. Of all those 
physical effects on the organism what is represented in 
sensation is but an innnitesimally small fraction. Our 
sensations, our cognitions, far from being a representation, 
a reflection as in a mirror, of the external universe, are 
but an absurdly minute fragment of the impressions 
which the external universe, all unknown to us, actually 
makes upon our physiological beings. There are more 
things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our 
sensory cognition. We human beings, with our highly 
elaborated sense-organs, our cunningly contrived eyes and 
ears, and exploring hands, can actually sense but a few 
miserable odd shreds of the physical influences which 
incessantly ply our bodily structure. We are no more 
omnisensing than we are omniscient. Cathodic rays pass 
through and through our bodies, producing the most pro- 
found physiological action, yet leave us sensorily incog- 
nizant ; we stand by the side of a wireless telegraphic 
apparatus which Herzian waves cause to sizzle furiously, 
and we sense nothing ; we stand in the field of force of 
a magnet that will stop our watch, and which does not 
produce in us the slightest sensation. The range of our 
sensation is as that of the visible spectrum compared 
to the whole length of the solar spectrum a mere fraction. 
Indeed, our sensory faculties are in many respects con- 
siderably more reduced than those of the lower animals. 
Our olfactory sense is degenerate and vestigial compared 
to that of the dog ; our civilized vision is far less keen 
than that of a savage or of a bird. Ants and bees react 

5 



66 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

to waves of the spectrum which are quite unperceived by 
us. The amoeba itself is sensitive to chemical changes 
which to us are undiscernible ; myxomycetes respond to 
gaseous emanations which we are unable to detect. 

To suppose that all those unsensed physical actions, 
and thousands more of which we have no inkling, impinge 
on every molecule of our organism without producing 
any effect at all upon the psychic aspect of that organism, 
is quite impossible except on the most extreme dualistic 
view of mental isolation. Unquestionably every one of 
those physical impressions has its effect, deep and 
momentous, upon our psychic activities. But that effect 
is not sensory, is not cognitive. The actions of things 
upon us is, as we said, represented by feeling, not by 
presentative feeling necessarily, not by sensation. And 
we know that many unsensed physical states of our 
environment, atmospheric conditions and pressures, elec- 
trical disturbances, do affect us in our moods, in the 
general tone of our vitality and activity. It is hardly 
to be doubted that the whole physical universe thus enters 
causally into the determination of our activity, of our 
behaviour, of our reactions, of our feelings ; that uncog- 
nized influence of the whole physical universe is one set 
of factors, wholly obscure to us, in our mental causation. 
But so far as sensory cognition is concerned it is only 
represented by a quite insignificant little bundle of 
sensations. 

Our sensory experience, then, is not by a long way 
coextensive with the impression of the external world 
upon our organism. It is not a mechanical reflection, 
as in a mirror, of those impressions. It is but a very 
small selection of those impressions, which are the same 
for the lowest as for the highest organism. The impression 
of an external agency and a sensation are two widely 
different things ; and sensory experience is not something 
impressed by the external world on our organs, something 
' given/ but it is something picked out, seized, selected 



FEELING AND COGNITION 67 

by the organism out of the mass of impressions impinging 
upon it. 

If we trace the evolution of cognition backwards, 
divesting it one by one of those elaborations which it 
has assumed in the course of development, we shall first 
witness the vanishing of general ideas, of conceptual 
thought, of all re-presentation whatsoever. Cognition 
will be reduced to direct sense-cognition. Sensation will 
further simplify itself ; our organism no longer has eyes, 
ears, olfactory organs, or tactile corpuscles. The differ- 
entiation and discrimination of sensory impressions 
become gradually less and less ; various amplitudes of 
ether waves are no longer distinguished, nor the impact 
of molecules from that of larger bodies. Ultimately the 
issue of such a process of backward de-differentiation 
would logically appear to be to reduce all the diversity 
of our sensory experience to one vague wholly undiffer- 
entiated sensory continuum, a sort of blended smell-taste- 
sight-touch sensation. That apparently logical conclusion 
is, however, wholly erroneous ; and it is only owing to 
the failure of psychologists to grasp the nature of sensory 
cognition that they are led to such an antinomy as the 
notion of an ' undifferentiated sensation/ a flatly self- 
contradictory conception, for sensation in its essence and 
origin is a differentiation. 

The backward limit of simplification of sensation is 
not an ' undifferentiated sensory continuum/ but no 
sensation at all. Sensation does not become undiffer- 
entiated, but passes into a purely affective state in which 
no element of cognition enters. The primitive organism 
does not sense solidity, form, heat ; it feels satisfactions 
and dissatisfactions, it cognizes nothing. As we descend 
the psychological scale we do not come upon undiffer- 
entiated sensation, but the cognitive element rapidly 
dwindles, the affective element bulks more and more 
as the chief, and ultimately the sole, constituent of 
experience. In animals there is very little left of that 



68 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

contemplative, knowledge-acquiring attitude ascribed to 
the soul. Curiosity has a very utilitarian function ; 
cognition only exists as the symptom, the sign of a vital 
affection ; sensation is but the clue to food, to safety, 
to reproductive activity, the warning signal of danger. 
Present a diamond scarf-pin to a new-born human infant. 
No effort of yours will succeed in attracting his attention ; 
the diamond has no value for it, its rolling eyes do not 
see it, its ears are deaf to your blandishments. But stick 
the pin into it ; you will at once elicit vivid manifestations 
of experience experience which is not at all cognitive, 
but purely affective. The new-born human infant, like 
the lower forms of life, is a purely affective psychological 
mechanism. 

Sensory power, more generally all cognitive power, is 
not something ' given,' a primary datum of organic 
existence ; it is a product, a result of evolution. Sensation, 
no less than imagination or conceptual thought, has 
been brought into being in the course of organic evolution. 
It has evolved, like every other manifestation of life, 
because it was useful useful, that is, to the operation 
of the conative tendencies of organic life. Cognition has 
developed out of feeling ; nay, more, feeling itself out 
of no feeling. 

If feeling can only take place as the concomitant of 
change in the vital activities of an organism brought 
about by changes in the conditions of those activities, 
it follows that an organism the vital needs of which were 
continuously and uniformly satisfied would be devoid of 
feeling ; just as our physiological function of respiration 
is, so long as normally carried out without check, un- 
accompanied by feeling. Such an organism is not an 
imaginary one, here hypothetically conceived. It is, on 
the contrary, a familiar and common form of living 
organization ; but in order to find it we must go back 
beyond the amoeba even, beyond the beginnings of animal 
life. The protozoon is by no means the most primitive 



FEELING AND COGNITION 69 

type of living organism. Far from it. It, on the con- 
trary, represents a very definite stage, a turning-point, 
a revolutionary climacteric in the course of organic 
evolution. It is an animal. Animals are predatory 
forms of life ; they live on prey, they are incapable of 
existing except by preying : no animal life can exist 
without vegetable life. Animals live, ultimately, on 
vegetables ; they subsist on the nitrogenous products 
which vegetables, by means of chlorophyll, form out of 
atmospheric carbon by utilizing the energy of sunlight. 
Animals, like all parasitic forms, have lost a power which 
they no longer need, having adopted the much more con- 
venient plan of leaving plants to perform the work, and 
eating them. There still exist some transition forms which 
do both the carbon extraction by means of chlorophyll 
and the preying and eating. The appearance of animals 
was the establishment of a predatory aristocracy which 
exploited a defenceless class and lived on the fruits of 
their labour. 

In vegetable life, then, conative impulses here mainly 
concerned with assimilating the chemical material needful 
to the metabolism of vital existence do not take the 
form of a questing effort intermittingly achieving its end, 
but of a continuous appetence continuously satisfied. 
The plant bathes in its food, it does not search for it 
and procure it. The object of satisfaction is always 
there, the conative process is purely assimilative. And 
accordingly all the processes of cognitive exploration are 
superfluous, and are absent. Even feeling is, doubtless, 
rudimentary, dim, and crepuscular, if it be present ; 
plants behave when subjected to violence like inorganic 
objects. It is needless to stop to discuss here whether 
in such intermittences as do occur in the conditions of 
vegetable life, resulting in slow, sluggish ' tropisms ' 
towards light or support, whether in some reproductive 
processes and, exceptionally, in the peculiar reactions 
of carnivorous plants, we have the indications of some 



70 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

rudimentary form of affective experience. Personally I 
do not doubt that it is so. But it suffices us to note 
that in the vegetable world, where in general no search 
for the means of satisfaction takes place, no sharp reaction 
to unfavourable circumstances is observable, and no 
development and differentiation of sensory organs or of 
nervous apparatus, which plays so conspicuous a part 
in animal evolution, no evolution of cognitive means, 
has taken place. 

Those developments and devices are the appanage of 
questing, preying, hunting forms of life. They are not 
primary attributes of life, but are as much as the most 
subtle elaboration of structure or of function, an achieve- 
ment, a product of conative forces. It is out of a purely 
affective form of experience that sensation has been 
developed and differentiated. 

Our primitive animalcule has derived much enhanced 
satisfaction and efficiency from the assimilation of the 
ready-made proteid substances of vegetable organisms. 
Its metabolic conations, instead of slowly manufacturing 
protoplasm from the ambient fluid, have found a much 
easier and more effectual channel of satisfaction in the 
assimilation of other organisms. The intermittent event 
of contact with these sets up henceforth activities directed 
to their assimilation. On contact with a diatom, gases, 
exhalations, issue thence which molecularly affect proto- 
zoan organization. But these are not, in the origin of 
life, scented, tasted, sensed ; they are merely pleasant ; 
they constitute a purely affective stimulus which sets 
assimilative processes to work. 

But let us suppose that our primitive, predatory animal- 
cule, its appetite now thoroughly alive and keen, meets 
with the following adventure. The usual feelings sympto- 
matic of an approaching meal are present, our voraciousness 
is on the tiptoe of expectation, our organism reacts to 
the usual stimulus. But this time something appears 
to go wrong, our assimilative efforts are thwarted, our 



FEELING AND COGNITION 71 

digestive impulse is not satisfied. On the contrary, 
instead of a state of satisfaction, the result is a decided 
discomfort, a pain. Reaction to the customary stimulus 
has resulted in dissatisfaction instead of satisfaction. 
The fact is that instead of a succulent diatom we have 
swallowed a flint. The result of such a lamentable 
experience is to damp the impulsiveness of our voracity, 
to inhibit our deglutitional reflex, as the physiologist 
would put it. The conative impulse is not abolished ; 
it is too fundamental for that ; but it is modified. It 
becomes hesitant. The affective feeling is no longer a 
reliable stimulus. The organism still reacts to the 
pleasant sense of apprehending a meal, but more cautiously. 
Is that pleasant feeling the genuine thing or are we going 
to be cruelly deceived ? The question is not, of course, 
asked by the primitive animalcule, but nevertheless to 
make an age-long story short a new conative impulse 
becomes gradually set up. Its object is to note more 
precisely the nature of that feeling, to discriminate between 
the promising and the unpromising feeling, to pick out 
from the affective continuum the differentiating signs 
It aims, in short, at cognition : the experience from 
being purely affective assumes a cognitive aspect. The 
organism learns to distinguish from an originally un- 
differentiated affective continuum the cognitive marks 
which promise satisfaction from those which threaten 
dissatisfaction. And thus in time cognition proper emerges 
out of the affective state, sensation is brought into being 
out of the affective result of unrealized conation. 

You will, of course, interject that the above account 
of the adventure of our predatory animalcule is highly 
imaginative. But here again there is enough of rudi- 
mentary protozoic psychology left in all the descendants 
of the protozoon, ourselves included, to check the 
hypothesis. The process which I have described is no 
more than may be observed any day in the most highly 
developed organism, making due allowance for the fact 



72 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

that the latter happens to be in possession of an already 
formed and highly differentiated and specialized cognitive 
apparatus. That apparatus does not, as a matter of fact, 
perform its functions at all except at the call of affective 
needs. Exactly similar to the process above described 
in our primitive protozoon are those illustrated by the 
new-born chick in the classical observations of Professor 
Lloyd- Morgan. 1 

" With regard to the objects which the domestic chicks peck, 
one may say that they strike at first with perfect impartiality 
at anything of suitable size . . . anything and everything, not too 
large, that can or cannot be seized is pecked at, and, if possible, 
tested in the bill. . . . There does not seem to be any congenital 
discrimination. . . . This is a matter of individual acquisition. . . . 
A young chick two days old, for example, had learned to pick out 
pieces of yolk from others of white of egg. ... I cut little bits 
of orange peel of about the same size as the pieces of yolk, and one 
of them was soon seized, but at once relinquished, the chick shaking 
his head. Seizing another, he held it for a moment in his bill, but 
then dropped it and scratched the base of his beak. That was 
enough ; he could not again be induced to seize a piece of orange 
peel. The obnoxious material was now removed and pieces of 
yolk of egg substituted, but they were left untouched, being probably 
taken for orange peel. Subsequently he looked at the yolk with 
hesitation, but presently pecked doubtfully, not seizing, but merely 
touching. Then he pecked again, seized and swallowed." 

If you consider even the psychology of the chick to 
be too far removed from your own, observe the human 
baby. He possesses the self-same organs of cognition as 
yourself, but they pour no world of sensation into his 
experient soul. He has eyes and does not see, ears and 
he does not hear. He has a voracious appetite and, 
like the amoeba, like the chick, will suck in anything 
into the pseudopods of his lips a finger, a pencil, a tin 
soldier, a rose, a model aeroplane. One of the chief 
functions of his nurse is to extract unsuitable foreign 
bodies from his slavering little mouth. Only repeated 
experience of satisfaction and dissatisfaction will gradually 
lead him to differentiate by means of sensory impressions 

1 Habit and Instinct, pp. 40-42. 



FEELING AND COGNITION 73 

between comestible and incomestible articles. Only 
affective values will guide his way to sensory cognition. 
Even a fully developed inherited sensory apparatus can 
only come into operation through education by affective 
feelings. And in ourselves no cognition can take place 
unless introduced into consciousness by affective values. 

Sensory organs are only developed where they can, in 
ordinary circumstances, serve the utilities of conative 
interests manifested in feeling. Power of tactile sensation 
is distributed on the outer surface of the body, and pro- 
portionally to the uses to which it can be put, but it is 
absent from internal organs ; the brain itself can be 
hacked about with a scalpel without the slightest sensation 
being produced. Undifferentiated experience is still with 
us purely affective, contains no cognitive element what- 
soever. We are in health unconscious of our health, 
unconscious of the operation of a thousand conative 
impulses. We breathe and assimilate, and nothing 
referring to those processes is represented in consciousness. 
But let the function be disturbed, let the conative tendency 
be obstructed, let the supply of air fail, and at once we 
have a pressing experience thrust upon us, an experience 
in which there is no element of cognition, but only feeling, 
the feeling of discomfort, the general quality of pain. 
Only those feelings which in the course of evolution have 
assumed a useful, warning, exploring function have under- 
gone cognitive differentiation. The rest have remained 
affective, ccenaesthetic. And as we ourselves are born 
purely affective beings, as in more primitive forms of 
humanity the affective character of experience obtains 
to the exclusion of the cognitive, so as we recede in the 
scale of organic evolution all cognition rapidly dwindles, 
and the experience of the organism remains purely or 
largely affective. 

It is inevitable that all that multitude of influences 
which the universe exercises upon our organisms, and of 
which only an infinitesimal portion is represented in 



74 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

sensation, should in reality affect us, should go to make 
up our affective state at any moment. That affective 
state is only in a limited measure produced by what we 
perceive ; it is mainly produced by what we do not 
perceive, by influences that are not cognized. What we 
cognize as sensation consists of elements extracted from 
that affective continuum, because we need them as signs. 
They are extracted, analysed out, perceived, by being 
attended to, by a cognitive effort urged by appetite or 
fear, which desires to feel more keenly, more vividly, 
to make feeling more delicate and acute so as to anticipate 
actual painful feeling, to pick up the track of desired 
objects. Sensation is constantly thus educated, rendered 
more acute by actual effort, by use, as with workers in 
colours, musicians, tasters, perfumers. Everyone knows 
the old experiment suggested by Hack Tuke of concen- 
trating one's attention upon a given point of our body, our 
little finger, say, for ten minutes or so. (The ease with 
which the experiment is performed differs considerably 
in various people.) Sensations will make their appearance 
in your little finger, tinglings, muscular sensations, twitch- 
ings, sometimes acute and vivid sensations. Those sensa- 
tions cannot be supposed to be created ; beyond doubt 
they are present as part of our general affective tone all 
the time, but they are elicited as sensations by attending 
to them. 

Our intellectualistic psychology declares, as might be 
expected, that affections are the result of sensations, 
that sensations produce feelings and emotions. It is quite 
true, of course, that when once sensation or any form 
of cognition has been developed for the express purpose 
of signifying, of serving as a sign, the symbol of an affective 
value, that sign calls up the affective state which it is 
its function to announce and anticipate. And thus the 
sequence comes to be reversed : the sensation gives rise 
to the affection instead of the affection leading to the 
sensation. All art, literature, music, employ sensation, 



FEELING AND COGNITION 75 

sensational symbols, in order to evoke affective states, 
emotional moods. Your musician will undertake to set 
up in you a flutter of the most disembodied affective 
moods, of exultation or tenderness, melancholy or joy, 
by propagating from the vibrations of a catgut waves 
that shall strike upon your tympanum. Sensation pro- 
duces affection. But the order in which the process of 
artistic production originates is exactly the reverse. The 
affective mood of the artist evokes sensory symbols and 
images, and he uses these, sounds, colours, forms, to 
translate, to express, his purely affective mood, making 
them significant. Sensations give rise to affective con- 
ditions because they have become symbolic of them ; 
but they can only do so, acquire that symbolic value, 
precisely owing to the fact that they were originally an 
integral part of those affective values ; they are efficient 
symbols of affections by virtue of their origin out of 
them. 

For that differentiation of affection into cognition to 
take place it is necessary not only that experience should 
be diversified in time, but that it should also be differ- 
entiated in space. So long as the obstructed conation 
is uniformly diffused over the entire organism it remains 
pure feeling. An enormous pressure of thirty-two pounds 
weighs upon every inch of our bodies ; we are entirely 
incognizant of it. Let that pressure be released, as in 
the ascent of a mountain or in flight, the disturbance 
becomes indeed represented in consciousness, but not as 
the sensation of an external event ; we feel unwell, we 
have a general sense of malaise, we have no sense of 
lessened pressure. The temperature of our ambient is 
uniformly raised or lowered ; we feel hot or cold, we 
feel, that is, not that the circumambient air is hot or 
cold, but that we ourselves are hot or cold. The feeling 
is entirely subjective, it is not projected into any external 
object. Frogs have been roasted alive by gradually 
raising the temperature of the metal plate on which they 



76 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

were placed, without their moving a muscle to escape ; 
the feeling was not referable to any external event. The 
relation of externality, the relation between subject and 
object, does not exist so long as the impression affects 
the entire organism ; nor does it exist for the organism 
whose whole supplies are derived from the fluids and 
gases in which it bathes. In order that the external 
world and spacial relations should come into existence, 
it is necessary that there should be a differential feeling 
between one part of the organism and another, a 
differential activity of those parts, a directional re- 
action. 

With us sense-cognition has come to be essentially 
massive, bound, that is, with the idea of molar move- 
ments ; we think in terms of matter, of solids. Movement 
means to us the wide sweep of the limb, the play of 
skeletal muscles by which our body is transported through 
space, or the wholesale locomotion of huge masses of 
matter, the falling or projected stone, the astral motion 
of a globe. And objects are solids with a widely extended 
surface which we can mentally sweep over with our hand. 
The logical analysis of our sensations by introspective, 
genetically oblivious psychology, leads us down to a 
sensory experience of touch, of the resistance offered by 
a solid body to the pressure exercised by our fingers. 
That, we say, is the typical and fundamental sensation 
into which all others logically resolve themselves. Sight 
is only a sort of shorthand which represents to us what 
sensations of touch a closer contact would yield. Distance 
similarly represents the amount of muscular effort inter- 
posed between us and the exercise of pressure on an object. 
Sounds, smells, tastes, are likewise aerial or molecular 
impacts : and they do not, moreover, except by association, 
yield any presentation of external existence. Only the 
massive sensations of pressure can do that, and are there- 
fore the fundamental sensory experiences par excellence to 
which all others are reducible. 



FEELING AND COGNITION 77 

So far analytic intellectualistic psychology, based on 
the differentiated modes of cognition of our organism 
alone. But physiologically traced down, those massive 
solid, molar conceptions reduce themselves to much more 
minute dimensions, resolve themselves into molecular, 
chemical sensations like those of smell and taste. And 
if our interpretation is correct, it is those molecular, 
chemical sensations vestigially represented in us by the 
senses of smell, taste, temperature, and not the massive 
sensations of touch, which are the original, the oldest, 
the primary sensations, and it is out of them that our 
' higher senses ' have grown. They are, as it were, inter- 
mediate phases between exteriorly projected sensation and 
pure feeling, between cognitive and affective experience. 
In themselves they do not contain any element of exte- 
riority, scarcely of localization ; we could not from them 
derive any concept of an external world. In fact, they 
still closely approach to purely subjective sensations, 
to pure feeling ; and are but vaguely differentiated 
according to sensory values. Our nomenclature of smells 
and tastes, like our nomenclature of feelings, is indefinite 
and rudimentary, and still refers in the main to affective 
values ; the rough, unsophisticated classification of those 
sensations is into ' nice ' and ' nasty.' 

And it is noteworthy in this connection that sensations 
of smell, although they have in us become quite rudimentary 
and cognitively unimportant, are still of all our sensations 
those which have in the highest degree the power of reviving 
affective states. Nothing will bring back to us so vividly 
the actual affective atmosphere of a past situation, of 
a person, of a place, as a scent, the vague, undefinable 
olfactory .impression. The associative link with our 
affective states, with the real significance to us in emotional 
terms of the past, is closest with the chemical sense of 
smell. 

It is those intimate chemical forms of sensation, then, 
which probably were genetically original, the first 



78 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

differentiation out of affective feeling ; and while they 
were the only ones they left the external world as yet 
unborn. 

The molar plane of sensory cognition implies the molar, 
directed movement of a motile, questing organism ; that 
movement which is to us the type of action, of behaviour. 
It implies an organic differentiation : no longer does 
the organism react homogeneously as a f whole, but the 
reaction of the whole expresses itself as a co-ordinated 
and differentiated action of its parts. But this molar 
action, the characteristic of the preying food-quest, 
is, no less than the most rudimentary sensory process, 
a molecular change. Our power of movement which calls 
to mind the power to raise our arm aloft in response to 
a nervous impulse transmitted from the brain, is really 
(still speaking physiologically) the power to effect very 
minute changes in certain portions of the colloid substances 
of our striped muscles. We do not move masses, we 
move molecules. The levering up of a boulder is a chemical 
operation. 

And chemical sensations are not presentations of extended 
objects, are not spacially extended. 

The transition from that diffuse unspacial feeling and 
acting is, like that from pure feeling to sensation of any 
kind, definitely traceable to the animal food-quest. The 
end of the preying animal is no longer to assimilate a 
quantum of energy, but to enclose an object as the means 
to that assimilation of energy. The searching organism 
came to react not to the emanations alone of its prey, 
but to its contact. It felt it as something resistant to 
be englobed. In the amoeboid organism englobing and 
seizing its prey was the first origin of that relation which 
was to become the refrain of German metaphysics, the 
pendulum swing of ' subject ' and ' object.' The prey, 
henceforth the object of desire, was felt, encircled, 
devoured. It was the first not-me, not an object of 
rarefied academic-philosophic contemplation, but of crude, 



FEELING AND COGNITION 79 

voracious animal appetite, the prototype of all not-me's, 
of the external universe of contemplative thought. 

An object, a material thing, is still for us essentially 
something seizable, something that we can mentally 
encompass and embrace, something which is extended, 
as we say, which has form. It is a curious relic of that 
origin that our thought is almost incapable of imaging 
the obverse of compassable form, to picture an object 
from the inside. Try to form a mental picture of the inside 
of a sphere, of a polyhedron, of your clothes inwardly 
viewed ; scarcely can you succeed in doing that ; the 
mind slips involuntarily into the external view of the 
object ; it requires to prehend form in order to apprehend 
it at all. It still seizes the object of its cognition as a 
prey. 

Not only is that perception of extended solid matter 
the presentation of the molar activity of seizing it, it 
is, in its original and direct form, the action itself. To 
' feel,' to palpate, is but a slightly attenuated and hesi- 
tatingly exploratory form of seizing, grasping, engulfing. 
The operation of sensing matter is carried out by the 
act itself of manipulating it. 

With the alertness of life to avail itself of every 
opportunity, another quite different form of sensation, 
the perception of luminous waves of various lengths, has 
become utilized to forestall the actual palpatory act, 
by associating with it the visual form of sensation. Apart 
from that association the effect of light is a purely chemical 
one one of the first and most important forms of chemical 
energy, indeed, utilized by organic life in its metabolic 
reactions and it has no quality whatever of spaciality, 
of extension, of materiality about it. That association 
is purely a matter of empirical education, of individual 
education even. To patients operated on for congenital 
cataract there is no suggestion of form or extended space 
in visual impressions ; as in the famous case of Cheselden's 
patient who described all objects as " touching his eyes." 



80 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

In certain strange cerebral disorders, known as ' apraxia,' 
or ' psychic blindness/ the structural channels of associa- 
tion between the visual and motor centres are affected ; 
the patient's vision is quite unimpaired, he sees perfectly, 
but things have no longer any meaning, they are un- 
recognizable, they are no longer material objects. His 
motor powers are as intact as his sight, but they can no 
longer be used in association with it. It is through the 
circuitous device of that association that a form of sensory 
feeling which is in itself wholly destitute of spacial 
qualities, which presents nothing but an unextended and 
unexternal modification of feeling, has come, through 
its far-flung synthesis and symbolic representation of 
molar movement, to be the ' dominant sense ' of con- 
ceptual consciousness ; causing the ' material world ' to 
be ' imaged ' in the mind's vision. The mind will thence- 
forth contemplate ' images,' think in terms of spacially 
extended solid ' objects.' 

By that presentation of molar motion all other sensory 
forms of presentation have come to be superseded, and 
dismissed as ' secondary attributes of matter.' That 
evaluation is the consequence of the fact that the molar 
motion which matter represents has itself superseded the 
mere chemical, diffuse, intimate reactions, which con- 
stituted the primary activities of life, and which have 
now become degraded to the level of * physiological/ 
' vegetative ' acts, a secondary dualism being thus set up 
between ' life ' and ' mind/ 

But the original presentation and the fundamental one 
was, for all that, a diffuse, unextended, unexternalized 
modification of feeling ; and the original and fundamental 
reactions and activities of life were formless, chemical, 
molecular, unextended. The molar acts which seize, 
grasp, and move and which are reducible in physiological 
analysis to chemical, molecular reactions and the material 
objects of those acts, pertain to the order of instrumen- 
tality, of means. And in fact, for all the illusions of our 



FEELING AND COGNITION 81 

materialistic conceptual thought, matter can never be a 
real object, an object of our conation. Nobody desires a 
material object as such, nobody has a wish to possess 
matter. The material object which we desire, the material 
behaviour by which we effect changes in matter and seek 
to compass it, are never ends in themselves, but always 
as for the first preying amoeba means to reactions which 
have nothing spacial about them, to assimilations that 
are not molar, to feelings which have no extended form. 



CHAPTER IV 

DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 

EPISTEMOLOGICAL psychology has elaborated and refined 
its distinctions between the various forms and grades of 
cognition. Chasms of discriminating differentiation have 
been set between the various cognitive processes of sensa- 
tion, perception, conception, ideation, intellect, thought, 
which have come to appear fundamental ; discriminations 
which an ingenious analysis may carry much farther, as 
in those subtle Kantian distinctions between ' the reason ' 
and ' the understanding ' ' Vernunft ' and ' Ver stand.' 
In spite of modern developments, the old notion of separate 
' faculties ' appears to linger yet, insidiously disguised, 
in the realm of cognitive psychology ; and the ' faculty ' 
which senses an ' intuition ' is generally regarded as 
having little in common with the abstract thought of 
the philosopher that classifies the categories of the 
intellect. It is not, indeed, so very long ago since the 
power of conceptual thought was regarded as a special 
' human faculty ' obviously and utterly distinct in 
nature from the crude instincts and sensations of 
animals. 

Genetically viewed and analysed, the facts testify to 
the exact opposite of such a view. There are no separate 
4 faculties ' ; there is an operation of cognition, and the 
essential mode of that operation is the same from the 
dimmest rudiments of sensation to the highest flights of 
discursive and abstract thought. Sensory perceptions are 
not data of experience, the bricks, as it were, out of which 

82 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 83 

have been built up the high structures of conceptual 
thought. In the cognitive activity of sensory perception, 
even in its most rudimentary form, are implicated in all 
essential respects the modes of operation of every cogni- 
tive process up to their highest phases of development. 
Cognitive processes, from those which modify the reaction 
of an animalcule to those which constitute the thought 
of the philosopher, differ in degree of elaboration only ; 
in the essential principles of their activity they are 
fundamentally identical. 

Every cognitive process, whether it be the most primitive 
form of nascent sensation or the most abstract analysis 
of metaphysical thought, is an act of comparison. In 
the one as in the other there is this judgment, ' This is 
like (or unlike) that.' Primitive sensation differentiates 
out of the affective continuum the cognitive elements 
of likeness or unlikeness which serve to forestall the 
affective value of experience to recognize or distinguish 
that which leads to pain and that which leads to satisfaction. 
It is an act of comparison between two affective states, 
which recognizes their likeness or unlikeness. You will 
find in Kant nothing beyond a series of such comparisons. 
Every predicate that we assign to an object is the term 
of a comparison of that object with another object or 
class of objects. 

When a primitive protozoon impelled by the conative 
needs of its life gropes towards their satisfaction and 
lights instead upon a dissatisfaction, retracting itself 
from the stimulus which it at first sought, a contrast 
is set up between the situation to which the dispositions 
of the organism were attuned and that which comes upon 
them. The actual situation is organically contrasted with 
the one which the organic forces were prepared to meet. 
The latter term of the relation is the reproduction of the 
previous habitual reaction so far as the organism is con- 
cerned, a representation, a memory, howsoever rudi- 
mentarily constituted by the renewal of the conative 



84 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

attitude called for by the apparent repetition of a former 
situation. 

Higher, much higher, in the scale of evolution some 
affectively prominent cognition, sign, or sensation, or a 
small group of such, serves as a symbol for the whole 
group ot experiences : the scent of the quarry is followed, 
the roar of the enemy is feared. Here the actual experience, 
the seizing of the quarry, the mawling by the enemy, is 
not awaited ; it is forestalled, replaced by a sensory 
sign which has come to be indicative, symbolic of it. 
The present term of the comparison, the experience, is 
symbolic, and the symbol, by its function, identifies it 
with a past experience. Every sensory act is a protention 
in time of the actual moment ; it looks before and after. 
It reproduces a previous affective attitude, and anticipates 
an impendent experience ; it is a means to the modification 
of the latter. 

The comparing activity is the same whether it is applied 
to the exploration of the environment or, as ingenuity, 
or practical reason, to the discovery of means. The 
means employed by animal or human ingenuity to deal 
with a novel situation are drawn from activities previously 
employed for another purpose. Their discovery and 
application is a comparison of the present situation 
with those in which the means have proved efficient. 
When, for example, the path of traffic of foraging ants is 
blocked by an unsur mount able obstacle, the activities 
habitually employed by the insects in constructing their 
storehouses suggests itself as a means of dealing with 
the present problem, and the ants set to digging a tunnel 
under the obstacle. 

Always a past experience or conative effort is compared 
with the present. It is not until the highest steps of 
mental evolution have been approached that memory, 
symbolic representation of past situations, grows gradually 
to be more or less independent of the actual present 
situation, and is evoked by the mere play of conative 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 85 

impulses. Thought in terms of symbols having an affective 
value independently of the actual presentation of the 
symbol (sensation), representation without the assistance 
of instant experience, has then become possible. 

The great achievement which created the ' human 
faculty ' and dug between man and every other living 
organism that yawning abyss which came to be the 
Cartesian gulf between soul and mechanism, between man 
and brute, was solely the elaborate development of a 
perfected symbolism the word. It is the invention of 
that symbolism out of the emotional cry, the call, the 
warning signal, the omatopoietic sound, which has brought 
about the possibility of human thought. The fixed symbol 
has rendered possible the evolution of abstraction, has 
forced its development in a geometrical progression which 
has transformed cognition from the amoeba's sensation 
into the discursive reason of the philosopher. But in that 
prodigious transformation nothing in the essential process 
has been changed. Sensations, no less than words, are 
symbolic presentations of differences and similarities, 
which relate past, present, and future experience. 

In the growth of language the first descriptive words 
(cognitive in function, as distinguished from the affective 
cries, chants, exclamations of emotion) are not verbs, 
are not nouns, but adjectives, that is, predicates. The 
subject of the primitive sentence is pointed to with 
the finger, the other term of the comparison, the 
predicate, is alone expressed. The noun, the name, the 
verb, are derivatives of the adjective. Thus in Sanscrit 
deva, shining, comes to signify the god ; surya, splendid, 
comes to signify the sun ; akva, rapid, becomes the name 
of the horse. The intellect seizes upon the striking, 
the distinctive quality of the object, and predicates it 
of it. 

The act of predication which is the form of all thought, 
of all judgment, is a comparison, a differentiation of the 
present object from a represented object, or its subsumption 



86 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

under the likeness of another. When I say, ' That apple 
is red,' I am comparing it with other apples, with other 
obj ects that are not red. Were the whole world incardinate, 
no predication, no comparison, and no sensation of colour 
would be possible. It is in the increasing nicety of dis- 
tinguishing analysis, and in the broadening abstractness 
of generalizing assimilation that the triumphs of human 
thought are manifested. 

It was one of the debates of eighteenth-century thought 
whether the particular or the general was the starting- 
point of cogitation. The question rested upon a confusion. 
All cognition, all thought, develops primitively in view, 
and by virtue of its immediate utilitarian functions alone. 
No distinction is ever drawn unless it is forced upon the 
organism by a vital and urgent interest. Hence ex- 
periences and objects which are identical in their values 
in terms of the interests at stake are not distinguished. 
To the primitive organism all things good to eat are cogni- 
tively identical. To the new-born mammal all that can 
be sucked is of equal value and remains undistinguished ; 
the unsatisfactory experience of cheated appetite alone 
leads the lamb, the human baby, to differentiate between 
a tuft of wool, a finger, and the nipple. Baby, again, 
learns to recognize, that is, to assimilate to antecedent 
experience, the somewhat terrifying object ' dada,' and 
only later to distinguish between various ' dadas.' It 
makes the acquaintance of the object ' geegee,' and comes 
to distinguish it from the object ' moocow ' with which 
at first it confounded it. That primitive confusion is not 
at all an assimilation, a subsumption, but a failure to 
distinguish. Assimilation proper is the part of higher 
thought which re-unites under perceived likenesses what 
primitive thought has distinguished and separated. There 
are thus in the progress of all cognition three stages : 
(i) primitive confusion, (2) discrimination and distinction, 
and (3) the perception of the fundamental likeness under 
the distinction. It is true, then, as Leibniz contended 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 87 

against Locke and his school, that the evolution of con- 
ceptual thought proceeds from the general to the particular ; 
but the primitive ' general ' is not a cognitive achievement, 
it is, on the contrary, a failure to distinguish. And there 
is all the difference in the world between the thought 
which is too confused to distinguish, and that which 
subsumes and assimilates. The vice of thought of the 
dogmatic blockhead against whom one argues in vain 
is, on the other hand, mainly a failure to assimilate ; as 
if, having perceived the distinction between one ' dada ' 
and another, one should fail to recognize the similarity 
between all men. 

When cognition for its own sake, to know, to understand, 
has itself, in higher human thought, become a desire, 
a goal of conation, likeness is sought under diversity ; 
the ground likeness is the fundamental, the essential, the 
diversity is the superficial, the contingent. And the 
thought of the thinker probes the universe of experience 
in quest of the ultimate, fundamental likeness of all 
being, and travels on its path towards the subsumption 
of all happenings under the law of their action, of the 
Many under the One. 

That portentous evolution from sensation upwards has 
depended upon the perfecting of the symbolism by which 
one or both terms of the comparison are represented, and 
the wonders of the ' human faculty ' are the result of the 
possibilities opened up by the symbolic system of language ; 
to that power of the sign rather than to any very peculiar 
power of more elaborate comparison or of representation, 
of memory. 

Representative memory has come to be regarded as the 
most striking and characteristic power of higher conscious- 
ness. It is one which fills us with wonder when we consider 
it, one which we tend to regard, in our marvel at its 
performances, as well-nigh the essence of mind. That 
I should be able to evoke out of nothing, as it were, a 
picture, an object of contemplation, which does not exist 



88 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

in the actual world before me ; that this picture, this 
abstract idea, which I gaze at with my ' mind's eye ' 
should be the real content of my consciousness, the object 
of my attention, to the exclusion of the actual world 
that impinges upon me it is little wonder that I should 
regard that power as the supreme privilege of mind, the 
marvel of it which sets it apart from the unsentient 
universe moored and bound to the actual. It is that 
power to have something in my mind which is not in the 
world before me, which, more than anything else, suggests 
the conception of mind as something independently 
existing, a separate ' substance,' other than the gross, 
actual, material world. 

In speculating upon the modus operandi of that power 
the first vague explanation that suggests itself is that, 
in some manner, previous sensory experiences are ' stored ' 
in the mind ; that there exist in the mind certain archives 
in which records of sensory experiences are filed for future 
reference, as a series of little photographs, say, of which 
an enormous number are pigeon-holed in the brain, to 
be brought out and inspected when required. 

That ingenuous conception can no longer be seriously 
countenanced. There are no little photographs. What 
primarily tends to be reproduced is, of course, the reaction 
itself of the organism to a given situation. That is the 
distinctive property of a living system of energy to 
be able to repeat its reactions. In the absence of the 
situation, the reaction is not repeated, but the disposition 
to such a repetition is nevertheless there, and what in 
consciousness corresponds to that disposition is not a 
sensation, but a pure feeling, an affective state. 

It is extraordinary that introspective psychology should 
ever have imagined that the memory of a sensation 
resembles a sensation, that the memory of yesterday's 
dinner resembles any sensation of the dinner, or that 
the memory of a blow on the head resembles a blow on 
the head. No one has ever been able to perform such 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 89 

a feat as to ' reproduce a sensation.' We do not pick out 
photographs from the pigeon-holes of our archives, we 
assume the affective attitude corresponding to a past 
experience, an attitude with which not a glimmer of sen- 
sation is connected. Memory does not in idle moments 
turn over the leaves of a sensory record, but rehearses 
the affective values, the emotional colouring with which 
it has at one time or another vibrated. It is that affective 
tone which in turn sets quivering the sensory state which 
may reproduce the cognition abstracted from the sensual 
experience (not the sensory experience itself). The picture, 
the photograph, is not the cause of the mnemonic experience, 
but, in a very imperfect form, the possible result of the 
affective reproduction, a result which may quite well be, 
and very generally is, entirely absent. 

I was reading in bed the other night a very dry and 
technical book of philosophy, my attention being appro- 
priately concentrated on the abstract argument, when 
suddenly, in the middle of a sentence, I became vividly 
conscious of an undefined feeling, a feeling of a previous 
experience, of a situation in which I had previously 
found myself, a feeling with which no sensory image what- 
ever, no definite sensation, was connected, only describable 
as a sense of exhilaration and well-being, of breathing 
freely, of gladness and health and joy of life ; and I 
knew that somewhere, at some time, just that same 
chord of feeling had been struck in me. The feeling, for 
all its disembodiedness and vagueness, was so vivid in 
tone that I was greatly interested in the phenomenon, 
and set about ' psycho-analysing ' to endeavour to 
elucidate it. I was fortunate enough to succeed. It 
was a clear summer night, and not many miles from the 
lower Thames. Presently I heard the clear, though 
distant sound of the siren of a small steamer. At once 
the sound harmonized completely with the tone of the 
feeling I had experienced ; and then the images associated 
with that feeling at once made their appearance. I was 



90 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

leaning over the smooth, age-worn, yellow marble of a 
balcony looking out on the Grand Canal in Venice, with 
the Dogana and Giudecca before me, and there reached 
me with the peculiar tone of sound over still water, the 
call of the siren of one of the small Lido steamers from 
the Riva degli Schiavoni. 

As in like experiences which everyone will be able to 
recall, the tone of feeling is reproduced quite independently 
of sensory images which may or may not be present. 
We exaggerate altogether the power and accuracy of 
sensual memories. When the affective state corresponding 
to those sensations is revived, the illusion is produced 
that the sensations themselves are revived. No sensation 
is ever revived. And the whole sensory representation 
is an illusion arising from the projection of the sensory 
experience through the affective tone. We imagine that 
we could reproduce quite clearly the sight of a familiar 
street, the appearance of an absent friend. Put that 
belief to the test. You will be altogether at a loss to 
describe accurately either the sky-line of the street which 
is most tritely familiar to you, or the features of your 
friend, the exact shape of his nose, say, unless you happen 
to have specially noted it. What we remember is a 
' general impression,' a local colour, the manner and 
mannerisms, the tone of voice of our friends. ' Unless 
you have specially noted it ' in that qualification lies 
the real key to sensory memory. A building, say, which 
you have merely looked at with the idle curiosity of a 
tourist, will be ' remembered ' by you merely in an affective 
way as a ' general impression,' and if asked to sketch 
it or to describe some particulars about it, how many 
windows it has, for instance, the illusoriness of your 
memory image will be at once exposed. You may, however, 
have studied it more closely, you may have noted this or 
that particular feature of it accurately, cognitively ; in 
that case you will remember that it has three doors, 
say, with full rounded arches, eight pointed windows, 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 91 

and so forth. But observe the character of that mental 
noting ; it extracts elements in a purely cognitive manner, 
and they are remembered in the same way, that is, in an 
intellectual way, as a statement for the most part that 
could be put into words, rather than as an image. The 
image is not remembered, but reconstructed from the 
statement. Only a mere schematic image can be thus 
committed to memory, not at all a visual impression. 
You are perfectly familiar with the appearance of your 
absent friend and totally unable to say whether his nose 
is straight or curved at the bridge, unless you have noted 
the fact. Your artist friend will sketch you from memory 
a striking likeness of So-and-so ; but his ability to do 
so depends upon the fact that he has made a particular 
note, an analysis from the cognitive point of view of his 
characteristic features ; he has committed them to memory 
with an artist's observation. We note nothing cognitively 
unless urged by a special interest to do so. We are 
satisfied with the ' general impression ' which suffices 
quite well for all our purposes, and our representation, 
our memory, cannot be fuller than our presentation. It is, 
on the contrary, by many degrees more vague and indefinite. 
A good memory in regard to some particular class of 
objects of cognition is merely the more interested cognitive 
noting of the presentation. Memory training is training 
in observation. 

Our human powers of thought depend upon the 
symbolism of the word, and we think in words. That 
we cannot think except in words, as was contended by 
Max Muller, for instance, is not correct. We cannot 
think except in symbols, and other symbols, pictorial, 
auditory, tactual, may be used, as in all pre-linguistic 
stages they are, instead of words. Words are merely 
a much more efficient system of symbols, and they are 
used in thought with all the enhanced facility and economy 
which symbols afford, and also with the disadvantages 
which symbols entail. Like the mathematician who comes 



92 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

to lose sight of the meaning of the symbols which he com- 
bines, and is unable to interpret the symbolic result to 
which he is led, word-thought constantly becomes entangled 
in its own machinery of symbols, and brings forth into 
the world grotesque nonsense and verbal vacuities. The 
mass of mankind are ruled by the traditional, titular 
authority of words, and do not look beyond the consecrated 
symbol. Professor Ribot once made an interesting inves- 
tigation into the representations spontaneously called 
up by abstract words. The results were in most cases 
ludicrous, even in people of the highest culture. With 
many the spoken word is found to awaken the mental 
presentation of its printed form. With others such a 
presentation is wholly absent, and difficult to call up, 
even intentionally ; the word-presentation is purely 
auditive. At its best in the trained mind abstract word- 
symbolism fulfils its function through the meaning of 
words having once been sufficiently investigated and 
pondered ; they thus become, like objects, complexes of 
varied values and utilitarian meanings, any particular 
aspect of which is called forth by the particular use to 
which they are put. 

It is, in short, only the affective value, the use, the 
interest which in every case is reproduced ; when a 
purely cognitive value is represented it is by virtue of 
the fact that it has been observed in the light of a cognitive 
interest, has acquired a separate value of its own. We 
find it extremely difficult to compose a mental picture 
from a mere description, or even a graphic delineation, 
of unknown places, unknown people, when the sensory 
data of form, colour, etc., alone are supplied. Our recon- 
struction from such materials is, we find if we have the 
opportunity of checking it with the original, totally 
unlike the impression which we receive from the latter. 
The affective value, the emotional chord struck upon our 
conative appetences, our likes and dislikes, is the real 
fact of all experience. We can, or we imagine that we 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 98 

can, reconstruct the sensory experience from that ; but 
we cannot reverse the process and reconstruct an affective 
impression from merely sensory data. Hence the failure 
of art which is merely representative and accurate. 

The actual world of experience is a world which affects 
us, an affective world, and one in which the possible 
reaction of that effect upon us, and our possible action 
upon it, are viewed. The illusion of a passively spectat- 
ing organism bombarded by multifarious sensations and 
' presented ' objects of knowledge is one that is created 
by the watchfulness of our organic sensory vedets. That 
conception, however, is that of the abstract philosopher, 
not that of the experient organism itself. For the latter 
the sensory world is still, as in its origin, the inten- 
tional discovery of an interested quest ; and only those 
constituents of it are noted whose relation, actual or 
symbolically significant, to conative tendencies bestows 
upon them a title to affective value. 

Nor does it present itself as a mosaic of sensations ; 
the living organism cares nothing about sensations as such ; 
it cares about food, safety, pain, pleasure, it cares about 
the satisfaction of its conative dispositions and impulses. It 
cares about sensations, cognitively regarded, only in the 
capacity of signs, indications useful in relation to vital 
purposes. Only the philosopher analyses the external 
world into a world of sensations ; to the unsophisticated 
organism, to the questing animal, to the savage, to man 
when he does not don the attitude of the epistemolo 
gical philosopher, it is not a world of sensations at all, 
but a world of objects, of things. Those objects are not 
synthetized by the organism out of a bundle of sensations. 
These are but means which, having achieved their purpose, 
have no longer a value, an interest, and are discarded 
and disregarded. As once out of the undistinguished 
impinging affective ambient, the primitive organism 
picked out the sensory signs of discrimination, so in the 
developed sensory world the higher organism picks out 



94 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

objects which it does not analyse down into sensory 
constituents. Only as the need is imposed by interested 
motives does it perform that task of analysis and com- 
parison, and dissociates differentiating qualities in the same 
way as the primitive organism compared one affective 
state with another, and dissociated distinguishing sensa- 
tions. Objects and the qualities of objects are compared 
and judged. 

To compare is necessarily to establish between objects 
a relation. Those relations are as real as that consistency 
of sensation which enables us to outline the possibilities 
of action in the external world ; it is the fragmentation 
of that world into objects, for our purposes and in our 
sense, which is arbitrary. That collection of objects is, 
in the human abstract intellect informed and quickened 
by a livelier notion of their relation through the concept 
of causation. Things are not merely compared as like 
and unlike, but as cause and effect. And the comparing 
intellect is raised to new powers of interpretation by that 
notion upon which all its reasoned constructions are 
founded. 

Contemplated logically, the relation of cause and effect 
presents itself thus : (i) cause produces (2) effect. But 
that is not at all the psychological order. We do not 
go about stumbling upon causes, and thence proceed to 
inquire what effects those causes produce. That only 
occurs at most in experimental laboratories, which are 
quite a late development of human ingenuity. What we 
commonly do is the exact reverse ; we come upon effects 
and trace them to a cause ; a quite different process. 
And that is not a development of human ingenuity, but 
a process so ancient that its germ harks back, like that 
of all cognitive processes whatsoever, to the very first 
rudiments of sensation, and is implied in them. 

Biologically considered, an effect is a sign. Sensation 
as distinguished from affection, serves the purpose of 
signifying something, something other than itself. A 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 95 

nidorous odour signifies the proximity of food. A sudden 
noise signifies the proximity of danger. The thing 
signified by the sensation is the cause. When a gazelle 
hears the roar of the lion, the effect, roar, is traced to its 
cause, lion, and is associated with it in experience. The 
roar is the effect of the lion, the lion is the cause of the 
roar. That is the original, biological prototype of the 
relation of causation, of the notion of cause. The cause 
is that which the effect signifies. 

The relation is not in its essence and origin an intellectual 
process ; it is a crudely utilitarian, life-serving process. 
Life does not speculatively contemplate rerum causas ; 
it cunningly seizes upon every means of satisfying its 
impulses, of protecting itself ; and it overcame the dis- 
advantages of waiting for a feeling which might prove 
its last, by forestalling it and detecting the signs of its 
approach. It discovered sensations significant of that 
proximate future ; and those sensations were the effects 
of causes. 

To what manner of cause the effect is referred depends 
entirely upon the interest, the impulse by virtue of which 
that effect is noted. To the gazelle the roar of the lion, 
if associated with any representative idea at all, and not 
with a mere feeling of fear, will be associated with, referred 
to, the idea lion. The lion is the cause of the roar. 
It will not be referred to the vibrations of the air, or of 
the vocal cords in the lion's larynx, or to the nerve cells 
actuating those cords, or to Providence, or to ' Natural 
Selection.' The path along which an effect is traced to 
its cause is laid down by the interest of the individual, 
of his conative tendencies, in the situation. The cause 
of the effect is that for the sake of which the effect is noted 
in the service of its life-interests by the organism, as 
significant. 

What is the cause of a given effect depends entirely 
on why we ask the question. Our notion that there are 
relations at all between things is but our way of putting 



96 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

the fact that there are no discreet things at all, that 
all things are parts or aspects of others. Our discrimination 
of experience into ' things ' is part of the cognitive process 
itself ; things are discriminated for the purposes of cogni- 
tion. The notion that there can be entirely different things, 
separate ' substances/ is a fantasy the absurdity of which 
contradicts the very fact of cognition. There is no such 
thing as an object absolute and unrelated ; it is not the 
idea of relation which the intellect introduces into experi- 
ence, but, on the contrary, it is the intellect's separations 
and distinctions, its creations of substantive and discreet 
objects, which is a utilitarian device of its cognitive 
operations. We cannot know without separating, dis- 
tinguishing ; but that separation and distinction is merely 
a necessary method employed for the purpose of knowing, 
of comparing, of picking out signs from the external 
continuum. That continuum is restored by the third, 
the assimilating, grade of cognition, by relating every 
object to all others. In the physicist's conception of 
the universe, for instance, every atom is the resultant 
of all the forces in the universe ; separate the atom 
from the universe, nothing is left of the latter. Like the 
Leibnizian monad, every atom mirrors the whole universe. 
The path, therefore, along which we choose to trace the 
link of causation is entirely dependent upon our point 
of view. The linking up, like the differentiating, is a 
cognitive act, that is, the sign must correspond to that 
which it signifies, the association in thought must corre- 
spond to the association in experience ; else cognition fails 
to perform its function. To ascribe an effect to a cause 
which is not its invariable associate in experience is a fallacy 
of exactly the same nature as an illusion of the senses. 
To cognize for its life-serving purposes, the organism 
must pick out the sign which is empirically the invariable 
significant of a given situation or experience, the cause 
which is the empirical associate of the effect. It must 
not feel the sensation, _or frame the explanation which 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 97 

it would like to be true, but that which is actually true, 
which corresponds to the empirical fact. 

The feeling of power, of agency, experienced in the 
performance of our acts, to which all psychologists have 
traced the notion of cause, is but a quite secondary notion 
introduced at a much later biological date into the process. 
The agent, the efficient cause, is but a special case of the 
relation of sign and thing signified, effect and cause. 
One of the commonest interests by which man in a social 
state is prompted to trace an effect to its cause, a sign 
to the thing signified, is to discover ' Who did this ? ' 
The interest is in the human agent. And the human agent 
is picked out from among the multitude of causes of a 
given effect as the one with which we are concerned. 
There is, of course, a strong tendency in primitive psy- 
chology to extend the idea of human agency, to ascribe 
the thunderstorm, the flood, to a human agent. But it 
is untrue to say that the notion of agency is at the root 
of that of cause. Even in the most primitive and un- 
sophisticated psychology it is not so. The savage may 
not only ask, * Who did that ? ' but also ' How did he 
do that ? ' and * Why did he do that ? ' Agency is but 
one mode of ' explanation.' We do not in thousands of 
cases think of a cause as an agent at all when we ask 
why the sky is blue, why the earth is round, there is not 
a trace of the notion of agency in our concepts. 

To trace an effect to its cause is not the discovery 
of an agent, but an explanation ; that is, a comparison 
between one sequence and another. Our need originally, 
of course, our life-serving, utilitarian need is satisfied 
when we have perceived the similarity between one chain 
of events and another ; that is all that any of our 
explanations can do ; never can they discover an agent. 
That subsumption, and not the discovery of an agent, 
is the utility of tracing a cause. When the movements 
of the moon are perceived to be similar to those of a falling 
apple, they are ' explained ' ; no agent has been discovered 

7 



98 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

in either case. The more sequences of events we perceive 
to be similar, the more satisfied is our sense of explanation, 
our knowledge of causes. If the likeness is found to 
hold good in experience, if we can trust to finding always 
similar sequences in the environment of similar events, 
our explanation is true, just as our sensation is true if 
it is invariably environed by similar experiences. 

The notion of agency is only a special case of explanation. 
We may explain motion in general by its similarity to 
the motion to which we give rise. When our psychology 
is confused and crude we shall say that things move because 
they have thoughts, feelings, purposes ; when we perceive 
that we may move without having thoughts, feelings, 
purposes, and that those are only used by us to direct, 
to serve our movements, that we move because we are 
impelled to move, we shall say that things move because 
they are impelled to move. We explain the impulse of 
things to move by our impulse to move or our impulse 
to move by the impulse of things to move. For here we 
reach a similarity the terms of which are mutually com- 
parable, and not comparable to anything else ; to test 
the truth of our comparison can only be done by reducing 
the differences between our movements and the movements 
of things to differences in the conditions and circumstances 
in which those movements are produced. When we have 
reduced all sequences of events to a fundamental similarity, 
we are left with a sequence which we cannot compare 
to anything else, which we cannot explain. We cannot 
explain it by comparing it to a particular case of that 
sequence itself, by comparing it to itself. 

The function of cognition here again including all 
its forms from lowest to highest is to set up a state 
of belief. All life's dealings with the universe postulate 
belief. The primordial and original attitude of all life 
towards cognition is that of implicit belief. Primitive 
animal life, protozoon or human baby, believes in the 
edibility of everything ; the evolution of sensation is the 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 99 

calling into doubt of that belief under the strokes of 
adverse experience. When a painful feeling is set up 
instead of a pleasant one, the reaction is inhibited, the 
organism doubts. Every step in the evolution of cognition 
has been the shattering of a belief, every discovery and 
development has been a disillusion. The progress of 
cognition has been the progress of doubt. 

Every cognitive effort constitutes a ' conflict of motives/ 
a contest between opposite, contradictory impulses. The 
function of cognition is to inhibit the operation of incog- 
nizant appetence. The amoeba that engulfs a flint instead 
of a diatom, the chick which desists from pecking orange 
peel that simulates yoke of egg, are being subjected to 
a ' conflict of motives.' The organism desires the pleasant, 
not the unpleasant, experience. The utility of the cognitive 
impulse, on the other hand, is to discern the signs of the 
actually impending experience, whether pleasant or un- 
pleasant. In discharging that function it must do violence 
to the desire for satisfaction of another impulse ; it can 
only serve it by opposing it, by stifling it. The one impulse 
desires to find things as it wants them to be, the other 
as they are, as subsequent experience will prove them to 
be. All cognition is a contest between those two tendencies ; 
its function is fulfilled, or it is stultified and defeated at 
the cost and peril of the organism and of the race. 

That conflict is the genetic mechanism of sensation ; 
it is also the theme of the evolution of human thought, 
of human belief. Here the conflict is magnified a thousand- 
fold. 

Within the narrow range of primitive organic cognition, 
which does not extend beyond the immediate consequences 
of the moment, the castigating forces of instant experience 
compel the efficient operation of the cognitive function. 
The organism that should falsify its cognition by its 
desire for pleasant truth would at once perish. And 
sense-perception has become an automatic mechanism to 
be counted by a shallow analysis as a datum of experience. 



100 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

In the work-a-day transactions of life man's cognition 
is likewise compelled to exercise its function, to be honest, 
to be, as we say, rational. But the opportunity for 
stultification increases with the scope of cognition. When 
that scope extends beyond the operation in individual 
experience of the chastening, compelling forces of immediate 
retribution ; when as a social being man deals with relations 
the bearing of which lies beyond the experience of the 
individual, in that of the race, with relations in dealing 
with which his cognitive faculty must rely for its validity 
upon the honesty with which it is exercised ; when it 
is checked only by racial, secular, indirect, not by immediate 
and individual consequences, he thinks that he is able to 
deceive himself with impunity. 

Even greater obstacles than those arising from these 
intrinsic conditions militate in human society against 
the cognitive effort. Symbolic thoughts and concepts are 
transmitted socially ; and that heredity is not the product 
of a cognitive impulse, but of the interests of domination 
involved in the social conflict. The cognitive effort is 
not opposed by the individual's desire for falsehood alone, 
but by all the accumulated desires for falsehood of 
generations of established ruling powers, hedged with 
awful, sanctified values. The ' conflict of motives ' 
assumes colossal proportions. The impulses which antag- 
onize the cognitive effort are of such quality and power 
as almost to overwhelm it ; they do overwhelm it, so that 
a purely cognitive effort is for the individual well-nigh 
impossible. Only by a long-drawn racial, secular process, 
by the overtaking of lies by the Nemesis of their conse- 
quences in the racial evolution, can human cognitive 
power be set free. 

The tribulations of human thought, the wars of opinions, 
the failures of metaphysics, of ethics, of politics, do not 
represent intrinsic disabilities of human thought the 
fallibility of reason. To charge that intellectual and 
moral chaos to the imbecility of human cognition is a 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 101 

gross, fundamental, and cowardly misrepresentation, 
whereby human intelligence is made a scapegoat for the 
effects of the non-cognitive forces that have deliberately 
been employed in preventing its exercise. Human intelli- 
gence has not been confronted with riddles, so much as 
with lies. Its anarchy does not represent the fallibilities 
of its powers, but the defeat of those powers and their 
stultification in the conflict with non-cognitive impulses. 

The impulse to cognition exists solely by virtue of its 
utilitarian life-serviceableness ; it is useful to the organism 
to discriminate between a diatom and a flint. If the desire 
to find a diatom where a flint is, overcomes the desire to 
discriminate between the two, the utilitarian function of 
cognition is abolished at the cost of the organism. It 
is not from any incapacity to distinguish between diatoms 
and flints that human thought has suffered, but from the 
determination that flints shall be diatoms. That suicidal 
attitude none the less fatal because it is on the racial 
rather than on the individual development that the 
scourge of its Nemesis falls has been actually erected 
into a principle of wisdom. It has been thought that 
lies may be advantageous, expedient, beneficent, desirable. 
The plea is urged that it is advantageous to believe that 
flints are diatoms, that the object of cognition is the 
pleasantness of the result, as judged by the myopic 
standards of actuating interests. With blasphemous lack 
of faith, thinkers and philosophers have not shrunk from 
suggesting that their notion of fitness, and not the facts 
of the universe, are the standard of desirability and 
trustworthiness. The motive, the vis a tergo of their 
thought has not been a desire for truth, but a panic fear 
of truth, and they have undertaken the sacrilegious task 
of fitting on the frame of their Procrustean bed a bungled 
Universe, which, but for their orthopaedic offices, were 
not decent to contemplate. 

Human thought and human culture is at the present 
day paying the penalty in its universal distrust, faith- 



102 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

lessness, impotence, and Nihilism of having lied to itself, 
of the supreme folly of imagining that it can become 
better adapted to the facts of life by trying to see them 
as they are not. Had we not for centuries devoted 
ourselves sedulously to extinguishing our eyes, to com- 
forting ourselves by the discovery of agreeable truth, we 
should not at this stage be in need of comfort, of faith 
in life. 

That doctrine of expedient falsehood the head-fount 
of all human error, and consequently of all human suffering 
arrayed in its latest garb as the fashionable thought- 
quackery of Pragmatism, insinuates itself after the 
manner of ' Christian Science ' under the cloak of an 
indisputable truth : the functional nature of all cognition, 
the utilitarian function of all truth, and smuggles under 
that disguise the very poison that has paralysed those 
functions. We should like the object of cognition to be 
such and such, that it should be ' yoke of egg ' and not 
' orange peel,' that the ' truth ' should be " attractive, 
valuable, satisfying " (F. C. S. Schiller). But by that 
very desire, the purpose for which cognition is sought, 
its utility to us, is defeated. By desiring the truth to 
be ' yoke of egg ' we shall presently get a horrible taste 
in our mouths. If our attitude were solely that of finding 
the sort of truth we wish to find, it would never be 
cognitive at all, and no cognitive impulse the very 
reverse of that attitude would ever have developed in the 
world. In order to exercise a cognitive function, in order 
to derive any advantage from the utility of cognition, 
we must do violence to our desire that its results shall 
be ' attractive, satisfying.' We must be prepared to 
cognize and accept the truth which is most atrociously 
unattractive and unsatisfying. We cannot cognize at all 
except at that price. The Pragmatist goes about whimper- 
ing that he is misunderstood, that his opponents are really 
Pragmatists at heart since they too acknowledge the 
functional nature of cognition. Precisely ; and it is in 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 103 

the name of that very function and utility which has 
been immemorially stultified by such quackery as the 
Pragmatist's, that they resist his juggling defeat of it. 
What the Pragmatist describes is not the function of 
cognition, but the pathological breakdown of that function. 
' Truth is but the interesting expression of the amiable 
personality of the thinker.' Quite so, but the ' expression 
of personality ' which we find unamiable and perilous 
is the ' expression of the personality ' of a liar, especially 
if he be lying to himself. The ' expression of personality ' 
that is required is the expression of an honest personality, 
of one whose conception of truth is not that which he 
deems agreeable. 

The ' fallibility of reason,' errors, illusions, inaccuracies, 
failures, mistakes, confusions, are not the things which are 
of real moment ; they rectify themselves soon enough 
by the natural selection of critical development. Not 
those ' fallibilities,' but the nature of the cognitive impulse 
which actuates the thinker and determines the process 
of his thought, is the thing which essentially matters. 

' Methods ' for ' the conduct of the understanding,' 
' logics,' are of comparatively small account. A great im- 
portance has been attached to them because it was un- 
beseeming and unpleasant to avow the real fountain head 
of truth and error. The notion has been cultivated that 
the advancement of correct belief depends upon the dis- 
covery of correct methods and ingenious ' logics.' Human 
intelligence can, as a matter of fact, be pretty well trusted 
to find its way to efficient methods of carrying out what 
it desires to carry out. That is a biological law. But 
the prerequisite for the operation of that law is that there 
should be a desire, a conative impulse, to use the available 
methods and instruments. Unless that is present, you 
may ' perfect your methods ' and construct as many 
systems of logic as you please, they will be all the more 
pernicious and misleading the more they are ' perfected.' 
Everyone imagines, of course, that he desires truth. The 



104 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

mystic, the champion of beseeming tradition and power- 
thought, will speak with as much conviction as anyone 
about his desire for truth. Here, then, we have a seemingly 
hopeless impasse, and there appears no escape from the 
personal view. But there is one test Are you prepared 
to receive the truth that you most intensely dislike, the 
truth which in its whole significance is most abhorrent 
to you ? That is the only Ithuriel's spear by which 
you may know whether you are capable of truth. The 
only ' method ' that matters is to reverse the Pragmatist's 
test. The only pernicious method is that of desiring 
' agreeable ' truth. 

What is an ' unpleasant ' truth ? It is, in a broad 
biological sense, the truth to which we are not as yet 
adapted ; it is the truth that is too big for us, the truth 
up to which we have not grown, for which we are too 
little. 

To straightforward cognition arising out of experience 
the notion of truth is in no doubt ; it is perfectly definite 
and simple. It is the fulfilment of the function of all 
cognition which only operates in order to discriminate 
in present experience the signs of an experience that is 
not present. It fulfils that function or fails to do so 
according as experience agrees or disagrees with the 
belief. If I say that there is a table in the next room, 
or that there are pyramids at Gizeh, the truth of my 
statement will be confirmed or confuted according as, 
on proceeding to the next room or to Gizeh, I shall find 
a table or pyramids. We need no metaphysical acumen 
to elucidate our notions of truth and falsehood, of validity 
or invalidity, in the beliefs we act upon, in all the concrete 
relations of life. To the youthful delinquent who is 
charged in connection with the disappearance of the 
jam from the pantry, jesting Pilate's question presents 
no riddle. He has a perfectly clear and definite notion 
of the difference between truth and a taradiddle. It is 
only by the woolly suggestion that Tommy's truth refers 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 105 

to one kind of veracity and Pilate's and the metaphysician's 
to another that a smoke-screen of confusion is cast about 
the latter. 

The apparent difference is that some beliefs refer to 
matters that are at once directly checked by experience, 
and others to what lies beyond experience, and cannot 
therefore be checked. But no cognition, true or false, 
valid or invalid, transcends experience ; for no question 
can arise at all except out of experience, and the relation 
to experience which sets the question likewise checks 
the validity of the answer. The only difference is that 
the control of experience is exercised more or less directly, 
takes a longer or a shorter time to operate. Experience 
demands cash, or gives a short or a long credit ; but pay- 
ment is invariably exacted. The longer the range of our 
questions, the more we are thrown back upon the accuracy 
of our thought ; our intellect is placed upon its honour. 
Our belief has a meaning or it has none, it is honest or 
it is dishonest. The meaning of a belief is either a 
presentation in terms of our experience, whether sensory 
or affective, whatever the postulated conditions of that 
experience ; or it is the apprehension of the inapplicability 
of those forms of our experience. But whatever differences 
of degree may obtain in the conditions of our cognition, 
those of our veracity remain unaltered. We think the 
fancy has been sedulously encouraged that we are at 
liberty to shape our ' truth ' as we please because no 
stern contradicting experience will pull us up and chastise 
us. It will. We or our children will be pulled up, will 
pay the full penalty of false cognition as surely and far 
more disastrously than if experience punished our self- 
deception by choking us on the spot. The consequences 
of Big Lies are exactly of the same kind as the consequences 
of little lies they are found out. 

And that is the great justification of our confidence 
in our powers of cognition. You think that you have 
demonstrated the ' fallibility of reason ' by showing that 



106 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

it can go wildly astray, and that there are things that 
we cannot know. You have done nothing of the sort. 
The function of cognition is not to know all, but to attain 
to accuracy in what it does know. And rational thought 
does, as a matter of fact, always sooner or later find out 
lies. The ' attractive, valuable, satisfying ' lie which 
you thought was quite safe because it dealt with matters 
' beyond experience ' and could not be found out like 
Tommy's taradiddle, is found out nevertheless. ' Fallible ' 
human reason some day infallibly detects it. And the 
consequences of that detection are immeasurably more 
disastrous than the consequences of the detection of 
little lies. The world is sick to-day from nothing else 
than from the effects of ' attractive, valuable, satisfying ' 
lies. A fool's paradise may be ' attractive, valuable, 
satisfying ' for a time to the fool ; it is humanity at 
large that bears the brunt of the consequences. 

That ineludible fate of all falsehood is the vindication 
of our cognitive powers. Those powers have operated 
despite all wills to falsehood ; they have, in spite of all, 
made for accuracy of thought. Metaphysical thought has 
in spite of itself carried out the process. The ' failure of 
metaphysics ' is essentially a misconception. I am one 
of the few who still believe in metaphysics ; for I do not 
see that metaphysical thought has ' failed.' I see, on the 
contrary, that it has steadily approached, not indeed to 
those goals of Unmeaning towards which it deliberately 
steered, 1 but, in spite of that fantastic steering, towards 
its only legitimate goal accuracy of thought. That which 
is called the ' failure of metaphysics ' is, in fact, the exact 
opposite ; it is the success of metaphysics. Human thought 
has gradually purged itself into accuracy. Those things 

1 " Die unvermeindlichen Aufgaben der reinen Vernunft selbst 
sind Gott, Freiheit, und Unsterblichkeit. Die Wissenschaft aber, 
deren Endabsicht mit alien ihren Zeriistungen eigentlich nur auf 
die Auflosung derselben gerichtet ist, heisst Metaphysic." Kritik 
der reinen Vernunft, Einleitung, iii. 



DEVELOPMENT OF COGNITION 107 

which were once assumed postulates, unquestioned pre- 
conceptions, have become to every thinker untenable, 
negligible, and obsolete. The meshes of thought have 
been drawn closer and closer and alternatives eliminated. 
The ' failure of metaphysics ' has brought about this 
result, that we know now pretty well the uses of our 
cognition. 

That success of metaphysics is lamented as the demon- 
stration of our ignorance. But it was, on the contrary, 
the grotesque incongruity of our pseudo-concepts which 
constituted our ignorance. What is left by their disso- 
lution is not mere blank nescience, but the valid knowledge 
that the foundations of things are immeasurably greater 
than the pseudo-concepts and incongruities which we 
sought to substitute for their majesty. 



CHAPTER V 
ESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 

EVERY act of the organism modifies it. A portion of the 
configuration of its energy is destroyed, and is rebuilt 
slightly altered by the effect of each reaction. That 
modification has a physical aspect and a psychical counter- 
part. The organism is modified as a physical system, 
its structure is changed. The extent of that modification 
varies, for reactions frequently repeated, within wide 
limits, from unobservable molecular and metabolic changes 
to gross and visible molar changes. Thus the pseudopod 
of a protozoon becomes, if the organism remains fixed 
in one position, so that the same portion of its protoplasm 
is constantly used as a pseudopod, a permanent flagellum ; 
the sensitive protoplasm continuously reacting to light 
waves at the same spot becomes a pigment spot, the 
rudiment of an eye. The ' act ' becomes a ' structure.' 
That transformation of action into molar structure takes 
place most readily the simpler the organic form. Plants 
react by wholesale modification of their structure. Thus, 
transferred to a dry atmosphere the leaves of plants 
become converted into spines ; Alpine plants transplanted 
to a plain lose the squat, bunched and dwarfed appearance 
of mountain floras, and acquire long stems and elongated 
leaves ; watered with brine, inland plants acquire the 
peculiar characters of sea-shore plants ; and so forth. 
The ' intelligence of flowers ' takes the form not of acts, 
but of elaborate structures, such as those which excite 
our wonder and admiration in the devices of orchids. 

108 



AESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 109 

Those structures are not, of course, the result of ' intelli- 
gence,' but the cumulative effects of the reactions of the 
organisms to conditions favouring or disfavouring their 
activities, aided by the action of natural selection. If 
those reactions have any psychical factor, it is not intel- 
ligence, or even sensation, or any cognitive process, but 
feeling in its original and most rudimentary form, the 
pure feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. 

There is, of course, no essential difference between 
big and small structure, between the most minute molecular 
modification and the development of a visible form or 
organ. Nor is there any sharp line of delimitation between 
act and structure, organ and function. Specialization of 
function, that is, the fixing of the type of reaction that 
has once taken place, and its facilitation by repetition, 
are physiological aspects of the modification of structure 
brought about as a necessary result of the repeated re- 
actions of the organism. Not only is the structure of the 
individual organism modified, its conative dispositions are 
also modified ; they have assumed a determinate objective 
form, their general tendency has become a particular ten- 
dency, it has become directed to definite objects, so that a 
vague disposition to react to favourable circumstances has 
been converted into a specific disposition to react in a 
definite way to definite circumstances. That intimate 
conative change is not fixed in the individual only ; any 
portion separated from it that inherits the conative 
tendency which is the form of the organism's life, thereby 
necessarily inherits the same disposition to react to given 
conditions in the way established by previous reactions. 
The detached cell of a multicellular organism consisting 
of structure-functionally differentiated cells, will, if it be 
itself sufficiently undifferentiated and unspecialized, re- 
produce the whole multicellular organism ; each daughter- 
cell reacting functionally and structurally to its relation 
to all others, in the same manner as the cells occupying 
corresponding positions, and having corresponding physio- 



110 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

logical relations, reacted in the parent organism. Thus 
the effects of every reaction, modifying as they do the 
structure and conative tendencies of the organism, tend 
to become fixed not only in the individual, but in the race. 

The fixation of organic reaction in permanently modified 
structure results in organized physiological function and 
reflex action there is no essential distinction between 
the two whereby a determinate reaction takes place 
automatically in response to the appropriate stimulus. 
Such a reaction approximates to our conception of a purely 
' mechanical ' reaction, one which is unmodifiable by any- 
psychological factor. And the reflex actions of organisms 
and tissues, of decapitated animals, and brainless frogs, 
were studied with great zest by Victorian science as links 
between inorganic mechanism and conscious behaviour. 
Reflex action afforded an example of action which, while 
rigidly and mechanically fixed in material structure, was 
yet ' purposive,' manifesting a clear relation to the interests 
of the organism. Hence its study proved highly interesting 
in the light of the ideal of deriving conscious action from 
that apparently pure mechanism. 

Reflex mechanism is, of course, not the source, but 
the result of vital reaction. The mechanism which it 
most closely resembles is not an inorganic reaction, 
but a man-made machine, a mechanism into the struc- 
ture of which a purpose has been introduced by the 
maker of the machine. And it is in that sense that reflex 
action is mechanical : it is machine-like ; the purposiveness 
is derived from its origin and is fixed in its structure. 
It was originally the ordinary reaction of the organism's 
conative disposition in response to a feeling of satisfaction 
or dissatisfaction, and the reaction has become consolidated 
in structure so as to operate in one fixed manner only. 
But it still differs in its mechanism from ordinary inorganic 
systems and man-made machines in being set in opera- 
tion by a stimulus, that is, by the production of a feeling. 
We shall see that the absence of feeling from our conscious- 



AESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 111 

ness is no proof of the non-existence of the feeling. Apart 
from that consideration we can satisfy ourselves in most 
cases that reflex action takes place in response to a ' sensory ' 
(here meaning in reality an affective) stimulus. For 
instance, one of the most obstinately operative of our 
reflexes is the blinking reflex ; we are powerless to inhibit 
it by any voluntary effort. Darwin relates how, while 
observing a cobra, which dashed itself angrily against 
the glass plate of its cage, he endeavoured to his utmost 
power to inhibit his blinking reflex, but with no success. 
But now try to produce the blinking reflex in a new-born 
child. You cannot. That obstinate mechanical reflex 
which even the mind of Darwin is unable to control, 
cannot take place when a ' stimulus,' though physically 
impressive, is not perceived, has no affective value. The 
machine-like operation which was brought into existence 
by the operation of feeling still requires some form of 
feeling to set it working. 

While the attempt to derive adaptive action proper from 
' mechanical ' reflex was an inversion of the sequence 
obviously indicated by all observation as well as by logic, 
some confusion is liable to arise in the opposite direction 
from our common experience that purposive effort passes 
with us into subconscious automatism, as when we learn 
to walk, skate, swim, write, ride a bicycle, etc. Here 
the purposiveness and effort are in the first instance 
elaborate, and this conversion of an elaborate purposive- 
ness into a mechanism suggests a similarly elaborate 
psychological origin of organic reflexes in general. The 
analogy is misleading. That elaborate purposive education 
does not exist except in the most highly developed forms 
of life. The type of reaction which has given rise to most 
organic reflexes is the original type of vital reaction. 
And that has nothing to do with cognition in any form 
or with a cognized purpose ; it is simply the reaction 
to the pleasant or unpleasant feeling produced by a given 
activity. 



112 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

The development of behaviour has taken place accord- 
ing to two distinct types or methods of action. In the 
first, actions are governed by feeling alone. They have 
no conscious purpose beyond that immediately represented 
by that feeling itself at the moment. To that type of 
reaction the name of esthetic action may be given. In 
the second type the immediate feeling is not the sole 
conscious determinant, and the act itself is a step in a 
chain of behaviour leading to a prospective result. It 
is performed in view of that ulterior inducement. Such 
an act involves cognition ; the act is performed as a 
conscious means to an end. We may call such a mode 
of action noetic action. 

In reflex action a specific act in response to a given 
feeling is fixed in the individual and in the race, just 
as a feature, a mannerism, a taste for a particular kind 
of food, are fixed in organic constitution and in heredity. 
That fixation of reaction extends much farther than a 
single reaction, in the same way as the fixation of structural 
characters extends much farther than a single ' character.' 
All the structural characters of an organism of extremely 
complex structure and specialized differentiations are, we 
know, thus fixed in the reaction of each of its constituent 
cells. In suitable conditions one of those cells, being 
undifferentiated for any local function, and consequently 
retaining all its powers of growth (germ cell), will multiply ; 
and its daughter-cells will, step by step, differentiate 
themselves from one another, assuming specialized func- 
tions according to their relation to other cells and to the 
whole, and so go through the apparently marvellous 
process of building up by stages the entire organism 
anew with all its ' characters,' its tricks of manner, and 
all. It is as merely puerile to imagine, as so many of our 
biologists have, under the influence of Weismannian 
mythology, been employed in doing, that each ' character ' 
whatever that may be is represented by the tessera 
of a mosaic, as it would be to ascribe each of the possible 



AESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 118 

reactions of a carbon molecule to a separate 'gemmule' 
of reaction, or the various properties of a sphere to a 
corresponding number of 'biophores.' The form of the 
conative disposition of every cell in the body being once 
modified, its reactions to every possible relation are 
thereby modified ; and every embryonic cell endowed 
with the same character must of necessity, in identical 
physiological circumstances, reproduce the differentiations 
of corresponding cells in the parent organism which 
occupy the same positional and functional relation to 
the whole and to the environment. 

That reproduction of reaction-values does not by any 
means end with embryological development ; it continues 
in ^precisely the same manner throughout the life of the 
organism. Structure and behaviour are, I repeat, but 
formal and superficial distinctions. Just as the character 
of the conative energy common to all the cells of a multi- 
cellular organism (apart from their local functional differ- 
entiation) reproduces the bodily growth of their ancestry, 
so it in the same manner reproduces the behaviour of 
that ancestry. 

Thus not only is every single act fixed, to a greater 
or less extent in structure and in conative disposition, 
but entire courses of conduct, entire modes of life, chains 
of processes of any degree of elaboration, such as nest 
or comb-building, community organization, and so forth. 
That reproduction of behaviour, identical in its causation 
with the reproduction of structural organization, is what 
is spoken of as instinct. 

The word once stood for one of the mysteries of Christian 
philosophy, being the endowment bestowed by the Creator 
on the beasts that perish, as the ' rational soul ' was 
bestowed on man. Far from being a special endowment, 
it is the primitive, straightforward operation of the 
constitution of living organization, whereby life endures 
apart from the individual, perpetuates itself. The results 
of its reactions must, in order to that continuity, be 

8 



114 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

in some manner fixed, transmitted. And that fixation 
takes place automatically as a consequence of the 
modification brought about by every act in the system 
of energy whence it derives. Every reaction tends to 
become fixed both in the organism and in the race ; every 
successive life tends to reproduce both the organism and 
its behaviour with stereotypical fidelity. The logical out- 
come of the fundamental properties of living organization 
would be the perpetual repetition in every detail of the 
individual life. It is the breaking away from that process, 
it is variation, and the noetic type of action among other 
things, that constitute special afterthoughts in the methods 
of life. 

You are puzzled by the purposiveness and the elaborate 
nature of some animal instincts. ' Purposive ' every vital 
reaction is, inasmuch as it is the satisfaction of an impulse, 
but the teleology of instinct is represented in consciousness 
by feeling only, by likes and dislikes. Instinctive behaviour 
is purely aesthetic behaviour. The organism is instigated 
to a course of action by the attractiveness to him of 
those actions and of the objects connected with them, 
without any consciousness whatever of their utility, 
without any perception of purpose. Why does a hen 
sit on eggs ? why do wasps build mud-nests ? Because 
they like to. There is no more to be said about it, so far 
as the consciousness of the instinctive organism is con- 
cerned, than about your liking for oysters or for neutral 
tints. De gustibus. . . . The mode of operation of 
instinct is clearly illustrated in the playful activities, 
the apparently objectless activities of the young. Play 
is essentially the manifestation of instinct in the absence 
of its object. The kitten that has never seen a mouse, 
or maybe another cat, will chase imaginary mice and 
play with balls of cotton in the traditional racial manner 
of dealing with mice. The pup will tear and gnaw, track 
and explore. The young human male will play at building 
things, at soldiers, at Red Indians, at pirates ; the young 



.ESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 115 

human female will play with dolls. Those activities are 
attractive, amusing, engrossing. All amusement, all play, 
all tastes, are manifestations of instincts, in appearance 
a purposeless exuberance of energy, in their vital signifi- 
cance deeply teleological. The bird plays at nest-building 
with as intense an earnestness as the little girl plays 
with her doll. The mason-wasp amuses itself by deftly 
paralysing caterpillars and sealing them in its mud-nest, 
where they will serve as food for larvae of which she knows 
nothing and that she will never see. In very much the 
same way with just a little more play of consciousness 
about the act the dying man who knows that he has 
not six months to live, will be impelled to marry the woman 
he loves, or to give utterance to the ' message ' that is 
in him. They like to do so ; it gives them satisfaction 
to do those things, just as it gives them satisfaction to 
eat. ' They,' man, bee, or wasp, are nothing but the 
conative impulses of the life-force which tends towards 
goals unrepresented in their consciousness, and which is 
transmuted into intense desires and pleasures by any 
reaction which serves its ' purpose.' 

The tastes of the bee, the wasp, the sacred beetle, are 
odd, concerned with peculiar, very specialized objects. 
The more primitive, the more lowly, the grade of develop- 
ment of life's activities, as in the ' physiological ' acts 
of our living tissues, the more ' odd,' that is, specialized, 
are the objects with which they are concerned, the narrower 
the compass of those activities. Bees have become con- 
cerned with a particular ' line ' of activities having to do 
with nectar, wax, combs, hive-organization ; and their 
fixed activities have developed into elaborate, minute, 
finicking details concerning that particular ' line.' Once 
specialization has taken place, development can only 
accumulate detail upon detail within the sphere of that 
specialization ; the whole conative impulse of life is confined 
and imprisoned within it. In like manner a human 
community to whom money has come to be the means 



116 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

to everything, will in time come to think economically, 
to formulate all the values of life in terms of pounds, 
shillings, and pence. All specialization narrows and con- 
fines the range of activity, and elaborates it within that 
range ; development proceeds from without inwards, 
and cannot expand. 

That original method of fixation which reaches its 
highest perfection in insects, in whom we admire the 
wonders of instinct, has its advantages and disadvantages- 
It greatly simplifies and economizes individual action. 
A whole elaborate course of life is supplied ready-made, 
as it were, to the individual ; there is no occasion for 
tentative effort, there is no room for doubts and hesitations. 
For the organism there is between such a fixed, ready- 
made behaviour and the tentative determination of 
conduct the same difference in simplicity and economy 
of individual effort and development as there is between 
turning the handle of a gramophone and playing a violin. 
The conduct of the living organism is already registered 
and stereotyped on the plate of his nervous gramophone. 
He has but to be wound up, and the behaviour is ' paid 
out ' automatically. Further, the mechanism can be 
indefinitely multiplied and reproduced wholesale in its 
most complex and perfected form, so that every individual 
of the race can ply his gramophone, and each stands at 
the same level as the most efficient performer ; whereas 
the violin can only be played satisfactorily by the most 
gifted and highly trained individuals. On the gramophone 
system of behaviour every performer is raised by heredity 
to the level of a Paganini, whereas the violin system 
establishes differences between individuals. The one 
system is perfectly equalitarian, levelling all habilities, the 
other is an inevitable source of inequality. 

Against those great advantages there are, however, 
serious disadvantages to be set down. The stereotyped 
conduct, however complexly perfect, clearly places the' 
organism at a disadvantage when dealing with. new con- 



AESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 117 

ditions. The elaborate perfection of its automatism is 
acquired at the price of a loss in flexibility. The greater 
the elaboration, the greater the fixity and rigidity ; so 
that ultimately the possibilities of further development 
become entirely excluded. Your gramophone-playing race 
ceases to produce Paganinis. The path of development, 
which proceeds from without inwards by greater and 
greater elaboration of detail within a determined sphere, 
ends at last in a cul-de-sac. Evolution must become 
completely arrested. 

The fixation of conduct in instinct was the path of 
least resistance in the course of evolution. And it pro- 
duced that marvel of insect behaviour which is so elaborate 
and so perfect that many people have even expressed 
doubts as to whether it is not superior to human methods 
of conduct ; and the perfect organization, balanced 
adjustment, and smooth working of insect communities, 
are constantly held up as patterns and models to human 
communities. 

There was a stage in the course of organic evolution 
when the class of insects was the crowning top of that 
process. Had there been an insect philosopher at the 
time, he would have had no difficulty in showing how 
the marvellous achievements and powers of the insect 
soul were the predestined goal towards which all the 
process of evolution had from the age of the nebula been 
tending. To produce a community of bees might well 
be, he would delicately suggest, the very Telos of the 
universe, the realization of that far-off, Divine event to 
which the whole creation moves. There existed a number 
of other forms of life in which the process of fixation of 
behaviour, the accurate transmission of elaborated courses 
of conduct in the form of solidly constructed, firmly 
stable mechanisms, had not proceeded in the same way as 
in insects. They were clearly unsuccessful, inferior forms, 
they were obvious failures, hopelessly outclassed and 
outstripped in the race of development. 



118 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

Strange irony ! It was precisely in those failures, in 
those unsuccessful forms of life, that the future of organic 
evolution lay. The descendants of those outdistanced 
backward races were destined to bruise the insect under 
their heels. They were lacking in the power of firmly 
and solidly organizing their nervous substance in a broad- 
based, efficient stable manner. Their activities were not 
concentrated on one particular speciality of behaviour. 
They were anarchic, disorderly persons, who had a natural 
incapacity for the arts of stable government ; they could 
not produce a perfect machine, so perfect as to be, like 
the British Constitution, insusceptible of improvement. 
They went about their business in an haphazard sort of 
way, now acting in one fashion, now in another, unable 
to make up their minds, having constant revolutions 
and changes of policy. The insect philosopher, I have 
no doubt, published a book pointing to them as fearful 
examples, as inferior races, who did not know how to 
behave, and even advocating the duty, the obligation 
incumbent on sensibly organized insects to put a stop to 
the nuisance of those wild people, and to all that experi- 
menting in behaviour, which was utterly disgraceful, and 
might even in time have a demoralizing influence on 
soundly, rightly thinking insects. 

I apologize for the flippancy. The allusiveness of our 
insect philosopher is not, however, wholly irrelevant. 
Life's facts are very broad. In human development as 
in organic evolution, in human as in biological affairs, 
the contests of the self-same forces are at work, the contests 
between stability and instability, change and conservation, 
preservation and development, specialization and experi- 
ment. And we have the paradox that in all evolution 
the main line of progress runs through the apparent 
failures, and leaves apparent success stranded in back- 
waters. Achievement tends to arrest ; it is the less 
perfected, the less settled organization that is predestined 
to ultimate success. 



AESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 119 

It is by the development of cognition, of noetic reaction, 
that behaviour has broken through the iron circle of 
fixed hereditary instinct. That fixity was the outcome 
of reaction to feeling. The organism that reacts solely 
to the affective value of the moment will react in exactly 
the same way to its repetition ; and feeling and reaction 
are stamped for ever in hereditary structure. Behaviour 
is thus fixed in an eternal recurrence. Feeling is the con- 
servative principle of psychical causation. The behaviour 
that is governed by feeling, by emotion, by sentiment, is 
the conservative type of behaviour the female, the 
religious type. 

Cognition, on the other hand, is intransmissible. 
Powers and instruments of cognition can be handed 
down by heredity, but not their products. No organism 
is born with inherited sensations, presentations, ideas, 
knowledge. Those it can only acquire through individual 
development. With noetic behaviour the possibilities of 
life, the building up of behaviour, begin anew in each 
individual. Each situation must be dealt with on its 
own merits. An individual instead of a racial memory, 
a presentative memory instead of a motor and structural 
one, is constructed. 

Pure feeling, the original sole determinant of behaviour, 
is bound to the present instant, to the actual moment. 
./Esthetic reaction is entirely comprised within that present. 
All presentation, all cognition, is the pretension in time 
of the determinants of action. In the simplest cognitive 
operation, in sensation, however rudimentary, the present 
expands into the past and the future. In the discrimina- 
tive sensory exploration an unsatisfied conative impulse 
tends towards a satisfaction which is deferred ; it looks 
forward into the future, is a means to an end ; and it 
compares the actual by looking back upon a past experi- 
ence, by reproducing a previous affective attitude. In it 
are all the rudiments of desire, of memory, and of purpose. 

The development of cognition is the expansion into 



120 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

wider and wider reaches of time of the determinants that 
shape the organism's reaction to the actual present. The 
cognizing organism does not react to the present merely, 
but to a feeling which it forestalls. It foresees an 
impending future feeling ; it has therefore time to use 
the intervening conditions as values related to that fore- 
seen feeling, to that hope or fear : a new range of values 
is thus opened to individual cognition. 

The behaviour of the purely aesthetic organism may be 
elaborately teleological through the gradual building up 
step by step of complex chains of action, each phase of 
which calls forth the next by making it desirable to the 
organism. But the conscious ' motive ' consists solely in 
the affective value, in the attractiveness of that immediate 
step, and that is as rigidly fixed in racial memory, as 
fatally determined as the end of the process. The aesthetic 
organism is essentially an automaton. In noetic action 
the end may be as fixed in hereditary determination as 
it is in the aesthetic organism, but the path of ways and 
means that lead up to it remains labile and is not con- 
sequent upon inherited aesthetic reactions, but on the 
individual cognitive powers, the operation of which can 
bring to light new forms of feeling, new values, new 
actualizations of its conative dispositions. Thus is the 
development of conation possible only in the cognizing 
organism. Only through the play of increasing ranges of 
cognition can the original drive of the conative forces of 
life work their way to greater and greater self-realization 
awakening to new possibilities as they strike out new paths 
of action. Only through cognition is their development 
possible. 

Nowhere, above the most primitive phases, is absolutely 
pure aesthetic reaction to be found ; nowhere certainly 
purely noetic action. Some latitude of modification is 
permitted even in the most closely organized instincts. 
When the object of desire fixed in the instinct is not 
available, the nearest substitute becomes an object of 



121 

fascination. Thus birds that are in the habit of building 
on ledges of rock will adapt themselves to the eaves of 
houses, and vice versa. The mason-wasp itself, the 
classic of elaborate fixed instinct, has acquired in New 
Zealand a taste for spiders instead of caterpillars, the 
latter being unavailable. And, while noetic action operates 
in conjunction with the most complex instinctive behaviour 
in birds and mammals as in the building instincts of 
birds, of beavers instinct, on the other hand, the 
hereditary transmission of aesthetic reaction, the direct 
and primitive method of determination of animal be- 
haviour, continues to be operative, constitutes indeed 
the foundation and the bulk of all behaviour, even 
where cognition and its operation on action reach their 
highest development, in man himself. 

The discovery that the soul of man is compounded of 
instincts has rightly been counted the greatest advance 
ever made in psychological science the first glimpse, 
properly speaking, of the reality of things in regard to 
that. The old fantastic mythologies which pictured 
animals as ' endowed ' with instinct, and man as * endowed ' 
with a ' rational soul,' have lapsed into the limbo of 
fables. 

In the psychic structure of man we see, as it were 
in a geological stratification, every successive form of 
vital reaction represented. His ' physiological ' functions 
operate in a fixed mechanism of reaction ; his cells busy 
themselves with their chemical operations, respirations 
and absorptions, like those of plants and marine protozoa. 
They reproduce his organism in successive stages by an 
elaborate series of co-ordinated reactions, a fixed chain 
of conduct. Motor, secretory acts of varying complexity 
are rigidly fixed in the structure of his tissues as reflex 
arcs ; some quite uncontrollable in their action, others 
amenable in varying degrees to influences from other 
parts of his organism. Appetences and repugnances 
hereditarily established give rise to instinctive acts 



122 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

identical with those of other animals. The young human 
seeks his mother's nipple by virtue of an instinct as old 
as the earliest mammal, manifests his needs by vociferous 
cries, and presently attempts to crawl and eventually 
to stand on his hind-limbs. He is terrified at objects 
and sounds to which affective evolution has assigned 
values evocative of the instinct of fear, and seeks other 
objects that have become bound up with feelings of delight 
and desire ; he is sickened and disgusted, excited and 
exalted, by virtue of ancestral sentiments ; explores his 
environment instigated by an inherited protective and 
acquisitive instinct of curiosity; becomes angry and 
pugnacious in response to the stimulus of situations which 
ancestral experience has marked as favourable to the exer- 
cise of his terror-inspiring influence upon others ; displays 
the humility of the weak before the strong, the vain 
self-display of the male, the cunning wiles of the female, 
and glows with the poetry of life under the blind primary 
urge of her impulse to perpetuation. The great bulk of 
the ' motives ' which prescribe his conduct are instinctive 
impulses once acquired by his ancestry and fixed in his 
organism ; he reproduces in his conduct and demeanour 
the decisions laid down by primordial vegetable cellules, 
by protozoan animalcules, by worms and reptiles, by 
forgotten generations of his own race, by every forbear 
of his motley geniture. And where he most originally, 
cunningly or sublimely manifests himself in his deepest 
wisdom and most soaring aspirations and ideals, he is 
still giving expression to the constituent conative dis- 
positions of all life, whose ultimate significance are as 
invisible, as unknown, as unintelligible to him, as were 
to the infusorian and the worm the instincts which they 
have transmitted to him. 

A very different purview from that which we were wont 
to contemplate in the separate universe of the human soul ! 
But in the first flush of the discovery certain proportions 
are liable to be overlooked, with misleading effect. The 



AESTHETIC AND NOETIC ACTION 123 

operation of psychic forces is fundamentally identical 
throughout the course of life, from the first amoeboid 
jelly to man himself. But that unity lies in the continuity 
of the evolutionary process, and it behoves us to perceive, 
besides that unity, the unfolding development which is 
the essence of that process, to apprehend wherein its highest 
products differ from its inceptions, its mature fruit from 
its germ. When, in contrast with the fabulous psycho- 
logies of yore, the truth is flashed upon us that there is 
no disparity, no contrast, no breach in the continuity 
of all animal activity and of our own, we proclaim the 
new-found truth by saying that ' Man is a creature of 
instinct.' That is strictly and wholly true. But when, 
setting aside the controversial emphasis of the contrast 
with old fables which that truth supplants, we regard 
the process of psychic evolution itself, and compare human 
psychism with that out of which it has grown ; when from 
that point of view we say ' Man is a creature of instinct,' 
the statement, while remaining true, becomes misleading. 
It leaves out of sight the fact that the distinctive character 
of human psychism is precisely that the part of instinct 
is here reduced to smaller dimensions than in any other 
organism. The distinctive trait of human psychism, as 
compared with that of other animals, is the surpassing 
of instinct. Man is the least instinctive of any animal. 
Not the instinctiveness of his behaviour, but the relative 
independence of instinct which he has achieved, is the 
characteristic of human behaviour. 

He is a compound of instincts, but none of those instincts 
is the elaborate specialization of a given oddity of life- 
pursuit ; he has inherited no comb-building, or migratory 
instincts, no hard and fast social organization. He is 
no bee, no wasp. He is the heir of those organic forms 
that have kept instinct generalized by introducing in its 
operation the control of cognition. Between the instant 
situation and the goal of feeling there has become intercal- 
ated in human ancestry a cognitive process of presentative 



124 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

values which, like a wedge, has gradually widened the 
gap between the two ; and that interspace, instead of 
being filled in with a chain of aesthetic reactions stamped 
irretrievably in racial structure, has developed into ever 
farther-reaching previsions and retrospects, with devisings 
of ways and means. These are the domain of the individual 
life, and are insusceptible of being fixed or transmitted in 
hereditary structure. 

Noetic action has culminated in the powers of the 
symbolism of conceptual thought. The conative impulses 
of life, hitherto groping in narrow channels of affective 
response, found the way open to their actualization in 
a manner never before possible. And in proportion as 
man uses those cognitive powers is his control extended 
* his control,' that is to say the self-realization of the 
primum mobile which actuates him. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE ORGANISM AND FOCAL CONSCIOUSNESS 

ONE great disadvantage that besets our study of conscious 
psychism is that the only specimen available to direct 
observation is the most complex and elaborate under the 
sun. We are in very much the same position in our 
investigation of psychological dynamics as we should be 
if we set about the study of physical dynamics and, knowing 
nothing of the simpler kinds of machines, such as a lever, 
a wheel, a crank, were compelled to begin our enquiry into 
mechanical principles by considering, say, a great news- 
paper printing-machine whirling at high speed, with all its 
cylinders, cog-wheels, tubular plates, shafts and cranks 
in rapid and complex motion, and we were to endeavour 
to formulate our notions of mechanical principles from 
that. You may well imagine how unsatisfactory the 
progress of our science of mechanics would be under 
those circumstances, and how long it would take us to 
discover, for instance, the simple laws of motion formulated 
by Galilei and Newton. The extremely complex, composite 
nature of the only form of psychic machine known to us 
by direct experience constitutes a serious handicap, and 
renders us naturally liable to mistake the superficial and 
incidental for the essential and fundamental, a type of 
error with which all our psychology is deeply fraught. 

Hence it is that in order to understand the essential 
and fundamental features of the operation of psychic 
act on we have been obliged to refer constantly to organic 
systems of energy reduced to their simplest expression, 

136 



126 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

and to follow those psychic processes not in the soul of 
man only, but in that of the most rudimentary and primi- 
tive organisms, of protozoa, such as the familiar amoeba. 
If it be objected that we can know nothing directly of 
the amoeba's soul, the reply is that we can study at our 
leisure its behaviour, and that is one of the most reliable 
data of psychology. A great part of our psychological 
knowledge is derived from our observation of the behaviour 
of others, and we can study that much more conveniently 
in the amoeba than in our friends. 

The amoeba has no brain or nervous system, it has no 
limbs, no stomach, no lungs, no liver, no heart, no kidneys. 
It is, however, a very remarkable and significant fact 
that, although the amoeba is entirely destitute of all 
those organs, it does essentially everything that other 
animals, including ourselves, do with the whole apparatus 
of nervous system, limbs, viscera, etc. It breathes as 
well as you or I, it breathes with its whole body ; it 
puts forth its protoplasm and makes very efficient tem- 
porary limbs out of it, pseudopods, with which it crawls 
about and seizes its prey as effectually as the lion seizes 
his. It encloses it in a hollow space contrived for the 
purpose in its protoplasm, and proceeds to secrete hydro- 
chloric acid and peptic juices, and to digest its dinner 
much better than many of us who have to be careful 
about our diet and swallow pepsin tablets. It excretes 
urea as well as if it had the most healthy kidneys. It 
can be quite wide awake and react as infallibly to an 
external event as if it were a mass of nerves ; and when 
it has had a good dinner it curls itself up into a ball and 
sleeps the sleep of the just. Although it has no eyes, its 
whole body is keenly sensitive to changes of light. It 
reproduces its kind by using its whole body as a germ. 
You adduce the heroic paradoxes of human conduct, the 
supreme sacrifice of the martyr. Well, the amoeba too 
can play the martyr. It can sever its body into two 
a most uncomfortable procedure, I should fancy. Perhaps 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 127 

it likes it ; the martyr too, if it comes to that, ' likes ' 
his martyrdom, or he would not accept it. The amoeba 
commits hari-kiri impelled by certain impulses which 
transcend individual appetites. 

Rather than say that our amoeba has no nerves, limbs, 
stomach, etc., it would be considerably more correct to 
say that it is all nerves, limbs, stomach, all eyes, all lungs. 
There is in truth not a single act of life, not a single 
physiological function that you can name, which our 
most elaborate organism performs, that is not also per- 
formed, in its essentials, by the single-celled amoeba. 
That is a most significant and momentous fact. What 
then is evolution ? We have been so filled with wonder 
at the marvellous building up of an innumerable variety 
of new forms from one another, at the coming out of a 
whole Noah's ark out of that miserable little speck of 
primordial protoplasm, at the wonders that issued from 
such humble beginnings, that we had some difficulty in 
crediting them. And when we come to look into the 
matter, lo ! nothing new has really been produced. We 
find at the very beginning of life essentially everything 
that can be discovered in its crowning achievement. 
Evolution has created nothing. Professor Bergson enthu- 
siastically calls it ' Creative Evolution/ but of creation 
in the proper sense of the word, the producing of some- 
thing that was not there before, something entirely new 
there is not a trace. 

The essential process of all the activities and behaviours 
of life is, we have seen, the satisfaction of its conative 
dispositions under the guidance of feeling. That is done 
by the amoeba, and nothing more is ever done by man. 
What has been developed, what has been perfected, what 
has been evolved, is purely and solely the means of 
carrying out that reaction. Throughout the phases and 
forms of organic life the disposition of energy remains 
the same, the tendencies of its reactions remain the same, 
the essential relation of those inherent dispositions to 



128 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

ambient conditions remains the same, the direction of 
life's impulses remains the same. 

From a biological point of view there is, fundamentally 
considered, but one animal the protozoon. The single- 
celled organism is properly the only existing system of 
living energy. All other organic forms, the ' higher 
animals,' man himself, are but combinations, aggregates 
of protozoa. And all the developments of means and 
powers, all the * faculties ' of higher animals and man, 
are but quantitative modifications and combinations of 
the functions and reactions of protozoic cells. Out of 
the original protozoa all animal and human organization 
has arisen, and every individual life arises likewise out of 
a single protozoic cell. 

The human organism consists, it is estimated, of some- 
thing like twenty-six and a half billions of cells, the 
progeny of the protozoic germ-cell. Of these, however, 
some sixteen and a half billions are but carriers of oxygen 
the red blood cells and are probably not to be regarded 
as living cellular entities, but as dead cells utilized for 
that mechanical function. So that the number of living 
cells in the human organism may be set down at about 
ten billions (10,000,000,000,000). Each of those cells is 
absolutely analogous to, and many are quite undistin- 
guishable from, various forms of protozoa which live an 
individual life as separate organisms. Thus the white 
cells of the blood are identical in structure and behaviour 
with amoebae ; unstriped muscle-cells are exactly similar 
to gregarinae ; the columnar and ciliated cells of the 
alimentary canal, respiratory tract and Fallopian tubes, 
to vorticellae or pintinni and to colpodian parasites ; 
nerve-cells, the cells of the cerebral cortex, are almost 
identical with rhizopods, such as gromia, chlantydomyxa, 
actinophrys, and other animalcules. There is no cell in 
the human organism that cannot be almost exactly 
matched with some form of independent unicellular 
organism. 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 129 

The powers and faculties of the human organism as 
a whole differ from those of an isolated protozoon only 
as the powers of a highly trained and efficiently organized 
army or community differ from those of their individual 
component taken severally. The higher efficiency of the 
organized whole depends upon the coordination of the 
activities of its constituent members ; but nothing is 
superadded to those powers. 

Organic coordination is the effect of structural and 
functional differentiation and specialization. It is of the 
first importance, if we would gain an adequate conception 
of the operation of the complex organism and of its 
psychical activities, to understand what is implied by 
that differentiation and specialization. And in order to 
do so we must endeavour, first of all, to dismiss from 
our minds the notion that ' hierarchies/ distinctions 
between ' ruling ' and ' servile ' elements, have any place 
in the organization of the living body. Anthropomorph- 
izing imagination has, from the time of Plato, imported 
the vices of human social organization into physiology, 
in the same manner as it has imported them into cosmology, 
building its conception of the universe after the model of 
an Oriental satrapy, or savage patriarchy. Contemporary 
physiology is still permeated with such superstitions. We 
may be confidently assured that nothing of the nature 
of such human stupidities and iniquities are to be thought 
of in connection with the organization of any part of the 
natural order. 

Free protozoa become, like all other living things, 
modified in structure and function in relation to their 
environment and mode of life. The component cells of 
a metazoic organism likewise become differentiated in 
relation to their environment in the compound organism, 
and to the mode of life consequent upon those relational 
conditions. Cells are specialized so as to perform particular 
functions ; some are particularly developed in the direction 
of secretion, others in that of motility, others in that of 

9 



130 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

particular forms of sensory cognition, and so forth. But it 
must not be supposed that, while organic elements are 
thus specialized, and devote the greater part of their 
energy to one particular form of vital activity, they do 
not at the same time retain and fulfil every function 
common to all living organisms. Though the intestinal 
cell is specialized for absorption, and the muscular cell 
for contractility, yet the intestinal cell continues to be 
contractile and the muscular cell absorbent. Specialization 
is never complete ; every living cell performs all the 
functions of life. Specialization involves no new form 
of activity, and the specialized cell acquires no power 
which it did not possess before. The modifications which 
constitute specialization are quantitative, not qualitative ; 
a cell specialized for a given function develops one of 
the aspects of its activity in a given direction, but it 
acquires no new function, nor does it cease to perform 
any of the functions of life which it previously exercised. 

The activities of our organisms are no more sharply 
divided into ' functions ' than our mental activities are 
divided into * faculties.' Our physiology to which the 
elementary and fundamental laws of vital action are as 
yet entirely unknown, is a sort of ' faculty physiology,' 
which divides the body into * systems ' the respiratory 
system, the alimentary system, the genito-urinary system, 
and so forth. No * system ' has an independent function ; 
its ' function ' is a resultant of the activity of all other 
' systems.' The operation of the central nervous system is 
indissolubly linked with exchanges of gases, digestive and 
assimilative processes, excretory processes, secretory pro- 
cesses, reproductive processes ; it performs each and all 
of those ' functions ' in addition to those which constitute 
its specialized activity. And, on the other hand, every 
element in the body, no matter what its specialized 
activity may be, performs in some form those functions 
which are specialized in the central nervous system. 

If two living cells are in organic continuity with one 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 131 

another, through even the finest thread of living substance, 
the reaction of both cells will be absolutely identical. 
Thus when a vegetable cell connected to another by a long 
protoplasmic filament of extreme tenuity, sets about 
secreting a cell-membrane, the second cell, even if enucle- 
ated, will do likewise and will continue to do so as long 
as the connection is intact. 1 As long as two protozoa 
(Stentor) remain connected by a strand of protoplasm, all 
their movements will be identical in the minutest detail ; 
all their cilia will vibrate in exact unison, bending in the 
same direction at the same instant.* The simplest multi- 
cellular organism is a mere hollow ball of flagellated cells, 
Volvox ; there are, of course, no controlling or integrating 
centres ; but each flagellum moves in exact unison with 
all the others, so that the organism spins round in a 
perpetual rotation. In fine, the conative dispositions, 
even if different, of two cells that are in organic continuity 
assume the equilibrium of a common conative disposition 
which is the resultant of the two. The determining 
principle of the activity of two such cells is equilibrated 
to a common level, like water in two communicating 
vessels ; so that every detail of their reaction and behaviour 
is absolutely identical in both cells, provided the conditions 
of the environment are substantially the same for both cells. 
But suppose now that the conditions of the environment 
are different for each of the two cells organically connected 
Let one be situated on the external surface (ectoderm) of 
a hydroid polyp, and the other on the internal surface of 
its enteric cavity (endoderm). Both cells are in organic 
continuity, and by the above Law of Equilibrium their 
conative dispositions are identical ; but their functional 
behaviour will be different because their external and 
internal relations are different. The external cell is in 
relation to the surrounding water, and will have to seek 
its food out of it ; the internal cell is in relation with 

1 C. O. Townsend, Jahrb. wiss. Botanik, xxx, 1897. 

2 A. Gruber, Ber. Naturfor. Ges., Freiburg, iii. 



182 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

the sack-like internal cavity into which food is swallowed, 
and is concerned with the digestion and absorption of 
that food. Their situations are different ; and the effect 
of the common conative disposition of the two cells is 
to cause them, not to do the same thing, but to do what 
the other would do if it were in the same situation. Both 
cells have a common tendency, equal reaction-values, 
identical interests ; hence the teleology of their reactions 
is directed, mutatis mutandis, according to the diversity 
of their situations, to the satisfaction of that common 
interest. The ectodermal cell does not capture food and 
retain it, but drives it into the digestive cavity ; the 
endodermal cell does not assimilate the whole of the food 
thus obtained by their joint action, but transmits, after 
digestion, a portion of it to the ectodermal cell by means 
of the fluids which bathe its external surface. The 
equilibrium of the conative disposition of the two cells 
results in an accurate division of labour, a perfect correla- 
tion between the activities of the two. There is here no 
' higher control,' there are no ' ruling cells ' ; there is no 
integrative nervous system in the polyp. 

In that equilibrium of the conative dispositions of 
living cells organically connected, varied in its mani- 
festations according to the diversity of internal and 
external relations, we have, I believe, the entire modus 
operandi of metazoic organization, and of those infinitely 
minute and unfailing adjustments and integrations of 
complex coordination, which surviving conceptions drawn 
from mythological similitudes with barbaric states so 
signally fail to elucidate. 

The reaction of every system of energy is a function 
of two factors, the disposition of the system itself and 
that of the ambient conditions which call forth its reaction. 
The first of those factors is a constant for every element 
of the organism, the second is a variable depending upon 
the total relations of the part. The modification brought 
about by each reaction in the uniform factor gives rise 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 183 

in turn to a modification of that factor in every part of 
the organism, every element of which is modified by each 
reaction of every other element. 

All the cells of a multicellular organism are organically 
continuous. They are, as are likewise the embryonic cells 
of the developing organism, connected one with another 
by numerous intercellular bridges of protoplasm. In higher 
organisms those connections are supplemented and simpli- 
fied by nerve connections. 

It is not, however, the function of the central nervous 
system of the vertebrates to establish such a connection ; 
it is with the sensory and molar motor functions of the 
organism that it is primarily concerned, and its distribution 
to the skeletal muscles and to the organs of special sense 
are adapted to that function of sensori-motor coordination. 
With the viscera the connections of the central nervous 
system are indirect, nor do they appear to carry any 
direct motor or sensory impulses. The sympathetic 
system, on the other hand, is very differently distributed. 
It has no exclusive sphere ; wherever the finest capillary 
vessel penetrates to support cell nutrition a sympathetic 
fibre accompanies it. In it we have a complete network 
of intercommunication between all the elements of the 
body, and further an open channel of intercourse, through 
the white and grey communicating branches, between each 
and all parts and the central nervous system. There is 
no indication of any centralization of function in the 
sympathetic itself. 

Section of the sympathetic in the neck causes dilatation 
of the blood-vessels, increased tone in the muscles, 
increased nutrition and keenness of sensation. Galvanic 
stimulation of its fibres gives rise to the opposite effects. 
Thus the sympathetic carries a stimulus which contracts 
blood-vessels, withholds their food supply from the tissues, 
and checks all the vital activities of the cells. When a 
cell or organ is called upon, in the interests of the organism 
as a whole, either in consequence of a local or of a cerebro- 



134 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

spinal stimulus, to exercise its specialized function, to work, 
it of course requires more food, more oxygen, more nutrition. 
The checking, repressing action of the sympathetic is 
withdrawn. By what agency ? The question is usually dis- 
missed in our physiological textbooks by saying that there 
is a ' vaso-motor centre ' in the medulla oblongata. Not 
to enter here into a detailed examination of the numerous 
facts that might be adduced to show how inconclusive are 
the grounds upon which that ' explanation ' is founded, 
it will suffice to mention that those vaso-motor effects 
take place after the removal not only of the medulla 
oblongata, but of the greater part of the spinal cord ; 
and that further, although vaso-constricting effects result 
from stimulation of the medulla and of the lateral columns 
of the cord, no vaso-dilator effect can be observed from 
their action. After complete removal of the sympathetic 
from the neck, the ear of a rabbit will regain after a time 
its normal vascular condition. More, rhythmical vaso- 
motor phenomena may be observed in small and entirely 
detached portions of a bat's wing in which artificial 
circulation is maintained. 

The only interpretation that can consistently be placed 
upon the facts and it affords the key to the whole 
mechanism of organic coordination is that local dilatation 
of the blood-vessels, increase in the supplies where they 
are needed, is the effect of the activity of the cells themselves 
in that part, which take more of the common share of 
supplies when, in the interests of the organism, they need 
more. The vaso-dilatation is brought about, not by any 
centre, but by the tissues themselves. And it follows 
that the checking, ' controlling,' action of the sympathetic, 
which holds back supplies, is not the effect of the dominance 
of any ' vaso-motor centre,' but the summation of the 
needs of all the other elements of the organism. In fine, 
it is by the equilibrium of the conative impulses of all 
the elements of the organism maintained at a common 
resultant level by their organic continuity that the 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 185 

synthetic coordination of the whole is brought about 
and maintained. 

The function of the central nervous system, it is suffi- 
ciently clear, is the coordination of the behaviour of the 
organism as a whole in relation to the external world. 
Primarily the brain is the organ of coordination of molar 
movements ; it is a part of the skeletal muscular system. 
That not any consciousness is its primary organic 
function. Every molar movement of the limbs, wings, 
body-muscles, is brought about by the combined and 
finely adjusted action of a large number of muscles. That 
balanced adjustment necessitates the coordinating action 
of a distributing centre which shall allot to each muscle 
the exact? amount of stimulation required for its share 
in the resultant movement. The central nervous system 
is that coordinating motor centre. Movements which 
have proved themselves effective by long ancestral ex- 
perience are permanently combined in fixed connections 
reflexes mostly established in the spinal cord. Move- 
ments that are not yet proved and established take place 
in accordance with the results of cognitive exploration ; 
and accordingly the organs of sensation must needs be, 
as they are, arranged in close connection with the motor 
system of the brain. But it is a quite misleading statement 
of that fact, and an unwarranted assumption, to say that 
the brain is the seat of sensation. This is loosely assumed 
to be proven on the ground of the circumstance that 
if I cut my median nerve I no longer feel a prick in my 
finger. I altogether fail to see that the fact that if I cut 
a telegraph wire the message is not received, is conclusive 
evidence that no message has been sent. 

Sensations, however, serve but to guide movements ; 
they do not originate or determine them. All movement, 
all behaviour, is the manifestation of dispositions that 
seek satisfaction through that activity, and make use of 
sensation to guide them to that consummation. The 
source of that behaviour is the conative disposition of the 



186 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

organism. And that is neither originated by, or in any way 
located in, or specially associated with, any brain structure. 
The brain has nothing to do with the ultimate determi- 
nant impulses that give rise to action. It is clear that 
it is not the brain that is hungry or progenitively disposed, 
and the tendency to satisfy hunger or love has no particular 
relation to the brain. The same is true of every conative 
tendency that is the source of behaviour. 

Those conative dispositions are represented in conscious- 
ness by the feeling, the affective tone, which is the effect 
of actual conditions upon them. Those feelings, moods, 
emotions, have from time immemorial been referred to 
the various organs of ' vegetative life.' In Hebrew and 
Oriental literature generally desires and emotions are 
always located in the bowels meaning the viscera in 
general : " The bowels of the wicked are cruel," " Re- 
member, O Lord, thy bowels and kindnesses " ; even the 
moral impulse and sense of duty was referred to the 
viscera : " Thy law is in the midst of my bowels." Plato 
placed courage in the chest and self-regard in the belly. 
The doctine of ' temperaments ' embodies the same con- 
ception in its description of the lymphatic, sanguine, 
biliary dispositions. Anger and ill-humour are currently 
ascribed to the liver, envy to the spleen ; though the 
physicians of Salerno regarded that viscus as the seat of 
joy, and ascribed love to the liver. Apart from those 
fancies there are more substantial popular impressions. 
The state of the mind is commonly observed to depend 
upon that of the health, of the physiological activities 
of the body. Much is admitted to depend upon nutrition ; 
men seek the favour of princes after these have dined ; 
good assimilation and circulation favour an optimistic 
outlook, and Carlyle's criticisms of contemporary ideals 
are usually disposed of by a reference to the condition of 
his peptic glands. 

The manifest correlation between general bodily states, 
visceral conditions and the affective and conative dis- 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 187 

position of the organism are too obvious not to have 
been taken into account by scientific inquirers. Cabanis 
expressed the opinion that emotions are dependent upon 
visceral conditions ; Bichat, with considerable fulness 
of analysis, laid stress upon the view that " all that 
relates to the passions pertains to organic life," meaning 
thereby the life of the visceral organs. It is, however, 
only comparatively lately that accurate physiological 
investigation, overcoming the obsession of the doctrine 
that the brain, and the brain alone, is the ' seat of mind,' 
has revealed the previously undreamt-of extent and far- 
reaching magnitude of that correlation. As a result of 
such studies as those of Mosso, Tanzi, Broca, Lombard, 
Pawlow, and innumerable other investigators, it is now 
known that there is not a function or organ, or minutest 
portion of the organism, which does not register, like the 
most delicate indicator, the slightest change in the affective 
state of consciousness. Mental changes so slight as to 
be quite uninferable from any gross motor expression, and 
insignificant even in the consciousness of the subject, 
are represented by definite changes in remote organs and 
functions. Down to the tips of the fingers and toes, 
vascular changes, measurable alterations in volume and 
weight, are associated with the most imperceptible fluctua- 
tion of the emotional state. The activity of every gland 
and the chemical composition of every secretion in the 
body are affected. The respiratory rhythm soars and sinks, 
the pupil opens and contracts, the acuteness of the senses 
undergoes variations in a definite relation to every change 
in the mental state. There is not a cell or a biochemical 
reaction of the body that cannot serve as a window through 
which we may peer into the soul ; so that, as one German 
physiologist, Born, enthusiastically puts it, " Die Blase 
ist der Spiegel der Seele ! " The familiar fundamental 
proposition of psycho-physiology, ' To every change in 
the mind there corresponds a change in the brain,' must 
in view of present knowledge be modified thus : ' To every 



138 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

change in the mind there corresponds a change in every 
living cell of the organism.' 

It is the consideration of such facts so utterly at 
variance with the dogma that ' the brain is the organ of 
mind ' which has suggested the well-known James-Lange 
' theory of the emotions,' namely, that an emotional state 
consists in the sum of the sensations that accompany 
those organic changes, that it is the disturbed action 
of the heart and respiration, the pallor, the flushing, 
the tremors, the dryness of the mouth, the catching at 
the throat, the perspiration, the ' goose-skin,' which 
constitute an emotional state. Put thus by Lange who, 
however, repudiated it later and by William James, the 
theory is a psychological ' howler.' For it confounds 
utterly the primary distinction between the two forms 
of feeling, the presentative and the affective, sensation 
and pure feeling. The ' sensations ' referred to are, it 
is true, those primitive, vague, undifferentiated, quasi- 
affective ccenaesthesias which are on the borderland of 
the differentiation. But, on the other hand, the ' emotions' 
considered in the theory include the most pronounced 
abstract and sublimated forms of affection associated with 
the highest developments of presentative consciousness. 
It is excusable to confound a straight-out ' physical ' pain 
with a sensation ; that is the primitive level at which 
cognitive and affective functions are still undifferentiated ; 
a ' physical ' pain may be used either in its cognitive 
or its affective capacity. But the ' emotion ' produced 
by grief, by anxiety, by artistic enjoyment, stands at 
the opposite extreme of the affective scale, and is wholly 
distinct from any sensory element or function. A man who 
is overcome by a great sorrow that robs life of its value 
for him, who is embittered by disappointment, changes 
the whole course of his conduct, seeks solitude, severs 
himself from the society of his friends, buries himself 
in work and thought. His whole conduct is deeply 
modified, but it is not by the sensation of bitterness 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 139 

in his mouth, of dryness in his throat, or of cold in 
his feet that it is modified. Sensations are here by- 
products of the condition ; they are not the determinants, 
the modifying factors of conduct. Those ' sensations/ 
moreover, represent only a few of the grosser, more 
conspicuous of the organic modifications which are the 
concomitants of affective states ; they are those which we 
notice without the aid of any physiological investigation. 
But those are but an infinitesimally small portion of the 
similar phenomena which accompany emotion ; and of 
the vast majority of those we are not in the least degree 
aware, certainly not in the form of sensations. You 
notice the quickening of your heart and the catching of 
your breath, but not the increased blood-pressure in your 
little toe, not the changes in chemical composition in 
your thyroid gland or your kidneys. To those changes 
no ' sensation ' whatever corresponds. If the few notice- 
able changes " are the emotion," what are the thousands 
and thousands of physiological changes that are not noticed ? 
What is popularly called an ' emotion,' and what is 
so designated in the Jamesian paradox, is also an abnor- 
mally pronounced, accentuated, intensified affective state, 
which forces itself upon our notice by its intensity what 
was once upon a time called a ' passion.' That is but 
a superlative degree of the affective tone which is part 
of every state, however peacefully composed, which is 
its foundation, which is never absent, and it is the 
determinant of all modifications of action external action 
or secret thought. What applies to an ' emotion ' applies 
equally to the unanalysed, unnoticed affective state of 
every moment ; if the former be a bundle of sensations, 
so must the latter be. But that would be to abolish 
every distinction between feeling and sensation, between 
affection and presentation ; that is to say, the logical 
issue of James's theory is exactly what James himself * 
has called ' the psychologist's fallacy.' 

1 Principles of Psychology, vol. i, p. 196. 



140 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

The significance of the physiological law that every 
cell in the organism is modified with every change in the 
affective state, becomes at once evident when the nature 
of the latter is apprehended as the mould in consciousness 
of the impulses which actuate us, their condition of satis- 
faction or dissatisfaction. The physiological source of 
those impulses and conative tendencies, and of our 
activities, motor or psychical, our acts and our thoughts, 
our desires and our appetences, is not the brain, but the 
entire organism, and every living cell that constitutes it. 
In a somewhat different sense from Aristotle's, the whole 
of the soul is present in every part of the organism. 

The part played by the brain is but one factor in the 
process ; it does not, in any greater degree than any other 
portion of the organism, create impulses to action, desires, 
feelings. Its function is but that of a central junction 
where the impulses of the organism are brought into relation 
with the motor organs of external movement, and with 
the cognitive and sensory organs. Our actions and our 
thoughts are the resultant of that conjunction. Those 
elements in the process which constitute our consciousness 
are not the source, but only modifying factors, of our 
acts and thoughts. Great as is the importance of the 
modification which they may bring about, they can only 
operate upon the material of action which is supplied 
from other sources, upon impulses which arise from the 
whole organism. The brain and its conscious processes can 
do nothing towards creating that material, or determine 
its ultimate tendencies and direction. The activity of 
the brain itself, its cognitive processes and its associations, 
are themselves actuated by impulses which are derived 
from every part of the organism. It is an organ, an 
instrument, like all other organs, of the conative forces 
of the living organism ; a skilled and expert servant, 
but a servant only of those forces. 

With some of the processes taking place in the brain 
consciousness, we say, is associated. That, we consider, 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 141 

is but the statement of plain and indisputable fact. But, 
however guardedly that statement may be worded as by 
saying that consciousness is c associated with/ and not 
that it is ' produced ' or ' generated ' by, the brain our 
fundamental and immemorial preconceptions do neverthe- 
less insinuate themselves even in our most punctiliously 
cautious and uncommitting wording. For in saying that 
' consciousness ' exists in relation to those brain-processes, 
it is assumed and implied that it exists nowhere else, 
and is not ' associated ' with any other process of the 
organism, but only with those particular processes of 
some brain structures. And, whatever views we may 
profess or repudiate, that bare statement of fact as we 
conceive it to be is tantamount to any of the statements 
of Victorian materialism, that consciousness is ' produced ' 
or ' secreted ' by, or is ' a function of the brain ' ; and 
we are left, in spite of all efforts, irretrievably entangled 
in all the incongruities and antinomies of * the relation 
between mind and matter/ 

The actual known fact is in reality slightly different. 
It is not that * consciousness ' in general is ' associated ' 
with the brain, but that what we call ' our ' consciousness, 
that is to say, just that particular sphere of feelings of 
which we say ' we ' are aware, is ' associated ' with those 
cerebral functions. The bare statement of assured fact 
does not refer at all to the distribution of ' consciousness/ 
about which we have no sort of direct knowledge whatever, 
but to a particular ' field of consciousness/ 

That field of consciousness, like the field of vision, 
has, and can never have more than, one single point of 
focal distinctness, whence it fades marginally, by a rapid 
gradation, into blurred indistinctness, faint, and yet 
fainter awareness. The similarity of the field of conscious- 
ness to that of vision is probably not fortuitous ; the 
disposition of the latter is, doubtless, connected with 
psychological rather than optical conditions. That struc- 
ture is a fundamental fact of consciousness. The 



142 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

supposed unextended substance, mind, deliquesces and 
evaporates at the edges. 

The organism at any moment is not affected by one 
interest alone, but is urged and engaged by a countless 
multitude of coexistent impulses. But those impulses 
affect it and engage it in greatly varying degrees. Hence 
there is always among those countless objects of interest 
one which is foremost, which exceeds all others in the 
intensity and urgency of its affective value, and is for 
the instant dominant. That is the focal point of conscious- 
ness at the moment. 

This is usually expressed by saying that the 
' attention ' is directed to that object. The word ' atten- 
tion ' is almost a superfluous word in psychology, and 
it is certainly a nuisance and a source of confusion. 
It is a surviving vestige of a * faculty of attention ' 
for which we have no further use. ' Attention,' far 
from being a faculty, is an act, a reaction, and should 
be a verbal noun ; it should properly not be ' attention,' 
but ' attending.' 

Attention is of two widely different kinds, corresponding 
to two distinct types which characterize all our mental 
operations, acts, thoughts : the directed and the spon- 
taneous type. If a bomb suddenly explodes within twenty 
yards of you, you will ' pay attention ' to it. Your 
self-preservative impulses are at once put on the alert 
and are directed in a lively manner to the object. Food 
if you are hungry, water if you are thirsty, attract your 
' attention/ acquire, that is, a preponderant affective 
value, an interest beyond all other objects, become the 
centre, the focus of consciousness. If on opening a book, 
or your morning paper, you catch sight of an article on 
a subject in which you are deeply interested, you will 
read it with avidity, your ' attention ' will be sharply 
focused on the subject. That is spontaneous attention ; 
it is the natural operation of your impulses. Your 
' attention ' in such cases does not require to be ' directed ' 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 143 

to a given presentation. Your impulse directs itself to 
the object which most intimately concerns it, and the 
focus of consciousness is thereby determined. 

You may, on the other hand, be performing a task 
which you have set yourself as a means to some end ; 
the task itself may be pure drudgery, may be extremely 
tedious and uninteresting. Your impulses are not in the 
least implicated in the object directly in hand ; you are 
going through the task as a matter of lamentable necessity. 
In order to do it at all it is necessary that each step should 
in turn become the focal point of your consciousness ; 
your ' attention ' must be held to the task, artificially 
directed to its objects ; and other impulses, other presenta- 
tions which hover in the marginal field, are almost equal 
in intensity to the artificially maintained focus ; and 
the narrow margin of preponderance of the latter may 
at any moment be overstepped, the spontaneous interest 
violently confined in the marginal area may rise to greater 
intensity than the artificial focus, which then becomes 
marginal while the spontaneous interest becomes focal. 
The attention is distracted. Into the mode of operation 
of that artificial direction of attention identical with 
the controlled direction of thought, of action we shall 
not inquire for the present. 

That focal consciousness, then, with its narrow field 
of marginal consciousness, is what we call our consciousness. 
It is our consciousness because it is focal and perifocal, 
it is focal because it is the prepotent reaction between 
the dominant conative impulse of our organism at the 
moment and the object that derives its affective value 
from its relation to that impulse. Now that position 
is clearly a relative one. The psychic reaction which 
occupies the focus of consciousness is but one of a 
multitude of reactions that are simultaneously taking 
place between the various conative dispositions of our 
organism and ambient conditions. It differs from those 
other psychic reactions solely in the circumstance that it 



144 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

has a higher (spontaneous or artificial) affective value. 
That intensity is purely relative. 

The absolute intensity of the focal consciousness varies 
within wide limits. The sudden and unexpected menace 
to our self-preservative instincts, as by the bomb, has 
an intense value. The mental absorption of the thinker, 
of Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse incognizant of 
the invading Roman and of the sword held over his head, 
is of high intensity. And in proportion as the degree 
of that intensity exceeds that of concomitant processes 
these are excluded from the field of consciousness. But 
from that high intensity the focal consciousness may drop 
to the most feeble, languid, and blurred condition of 
dreamy faintness. You may have ' nothing to think of,' 
you may be bored to apathy, your focal consciousness 
may idly flutter about and busy itself for want of better 
to do with the dancing mote or scudding cloud. The focal 
consciousness at any moment may be by many degrees 
less intense than the contents of marginal consciousness 
at another time. The difference between the focal reaction 
and all others is, then, purely relative, positional. In 
all other respects, apart from that relative, positional 
value, those psychic processes, the focal reaction and 
the marginal ones, are identical in their nature and 
operation. A psychic process is not rendered less intense 
because another process happens to be of higher intensity, 
any more than a building is made smaller by building a 
higher one alongside. 

What constitutes the limelight of focal consciousness 
is the dominant impulse or interest of the actual (i.e. 
active) moment, the matter in hand ; all psychism, as 
part of the mechanism of action, being primarily con- 
cerned with that. The ' limelight ' is turned upon those 
mental processes which bear upon the actual matter in 
hand, which are relevant, and it ignores and excludes 
all others. The operation of that maximal impulse which 
determines the focus of consciousness is thus selective. 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 145 

That selection, that illumination, does not bring those 
processes into existence or annihilate them, any more 
than the sweep of a searchlight creates or annihilates 
the objects which it illumines or leaves in darkness. 
Those processes which are left in darkness, as not being 
required in the reaction of the actual moment, do never- 
theless continue to take place in relation to impulses 
which, although in abeyance so far as present action is 
concerned, are nevertheless operative. The rehearsal of 
an important action which you are to perform to-morrow 
occupies your mind, albeit some ' business in hand ' 
compels you to attend for the moment to quite other 
things ; the care which you have ' dismissed from your 
mind ' continues nevertheless to wear you down. While 
you are reading this page and your consciousness is we 
will suppose for the sake of argument focused on my 
words, a thousand and one objects of consciousness hover 
about that focus. You are at the same time raising 
objections, and passing judgments ; you are thinking of 
other views which you have read. And at the same time 
you are ' conscious ' of the weight of the book the physical 
weight, 1 mean of the chair you are sitting on, of the 
light you are reading by, of the passing bus, etc., etc. 
That appointment which you have to keep, and which 
you might forget while idling your time away over a 
book of psychology all those things and a hundred 
more are hovering on the outskirts of your focal con- 
sciousness, so close that the merest trifle will suffice to 
make them focal and to cause you to fling your book 
aside. 

It is both a logical consequence of the constitution of 
the field of consciousness, and a matter of common 
experience, that mental processes of exactly the same kind 
as those which occupy its focus take place even beyond the 
indefinite and vaporous edge of its extreme circumference, 
beyond consciousness. The name that you had forgotten, 
the problem that you had dismissed from your mind, 

10 



146 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

presently turn up recollected and solved by psychic 
operations which have not occupied the field of conscious- 
ness. You are surprised to find entering into the train 
of your thoughts some word, some piece of information 
which you have read or learnt 'without knowing it.' 

In a sense well may those trivially familiar phenomena 
seem surprising and upsetting, for they deal a death- 
blow to all traditional misconceptions of mind, to the 
conception that consciousness (i.e. focal and perifocal 
consciousness) constitutes mind, that separate and distinct 
entity and substance isolated from all else by impassable 
gulfs. ' Unconscious mind ' is necessarily, to every con- 
ception of traditional psychology, not only a highly 
questionable, but a wholly inadmissible expression ; one 
against which academic psychology has felt compelled to 
lodge an emphatic protest. 

But there are grounds more valid than the inviolability 
of traditional definitions for declining to admit that pro- 
cesses exactly similar to those which take place in focal 
consciousness can take place apart from consciousness, 
as, to use Mill's phrase, ' unconscious cerebrations.' For 
if that were so we should at once be compelled to regard 
all consciousness as superfluous, as an * epiphenomenon ' 
having no part whatever in the functions which it appears 
to exercise. Such a view is untenable ; for it not only 
would stultify all knowledge, but it would constitute 
a unique breach of the most fundamental law of living 
organization that no activity can develop that does not 
serve the conative tendencies of living organisms. If 
feelings could take place apart from consciousness, there 
would be no alternative but to adopt the view that they 
are mere shadows without use or significance. But there 
is an alternative, the only one, apart from denying the 
facts or calling them a ' mystery ' and it is to recognize 
that focal and perifocal consciousness do not constitute 
the whole of consciousness, and that the circumstance 
that a psychic operation does not take place within that 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 147 

' field of consciousness ' is no legitimate criterion that it 
is not accompanied by consciousness. 

And it is to that conclusion that the facts themselves 
point. If it be admitted that each of the ten billion 
protozoan cells which constitute the human organism 
reacts individually to the stimuli, internal and external, 
that affect it, then that reaction is, like all the reactions 
of life, guided by feeling. The effect of light of the rod- 
and cone-cells of the retina is not a purely physical effect ; 
the effect of the pressure of a needle-point on the cells 
of the cutis is not a purely physical effect. Neither the 
gratuitous supposition that those impressions are trans- 
formed into feeling in the brain alone, nor the very question- 
able doctrine of specific energies, alters the fact that the 
reaction of living cells, whether free or forming a part 
of a metazoic organism, is not an inorganic phenomenon, 
but postulates those adaptive modifications which are 
the correlative of feeling. The feelings of the various 
parts of the organism are only represented in central 
consciousness as sensations when they are of use in 
guiding the external motor activities ; where they cannot 
be thus utilized they are not represented as sensations. 
The viscera transmit no sensations to the central con- 
sciousness ; visceral pain is not the direct effect of the 
irritant, but of the contractions of the tissues in their 
efforts to expel it. It is not as sensation, but in the 
general affective tone of central consciousness which 
determines the character of the reaction of the organism 
as a whole, that organic feeling is there represented. 
Presentative and cogitative processes are not attributable 
to cell elements severally, for those processes require 
the combined operation of a vast number of such elements 
specialized in varied motor and sensory directions ; but 
if thought were possible to the cells of the liver or the 
pancreas we should know nothing of it, since it would 
not be represented in focal consciousness except as a 
determining affective value. In the brain countless 



148 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

psychic reactions are proceeding simultaneously ; and of 
those processes only one can be focal. But that focal 
consciousness, which we call ' our ' consciousness is but 
one particular perspective, one particular point of view 
determined by the situation of the actual moment 
' actual ' in the strictest sense, that is, concerned with 
the action, the reaction of the moment to external 
circumstances. That consciousness is but an infinitesimal 
fraction of the totality of psychic processes which take 
place in preparation for action, and which are actuated 
by every impulse manifesting itself in the organism. 
' Our ' consciousness is an aspect of the psychic activity 
of every living element of our organism ; but it is not the 
whole of that activity. 

The brain, and its amoeboid cells with their pseudopods 
and tentacles, are not the seat of some unique and 
mysterious power or principle, of a miraculous function 
to be found there alone. Their function, however por- 
tentous its results, does not involve any new activity, 
but only the coordinated operation of activities and 
powers which are inherent in all living substance. The 
affective tone, the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction 
of the conative dispositions which actuate all systems 
of living energy, can, we have seen, be differentiated and 
specialized into cognitive feeling. Affective tones, how- 
ever complex, are reproduced in the reaction of any living 
system to a situation or symbolic perception corresponding 
to that affective value. That reproduction projects itself 
into all the motor and sensory groups of elements that 
are associated with the activity towards which that state 
tends ; or, vice versa, any sensori-motor complex, such 
as is called up by a word (the associated sound-symbol of 
that complex) will reproduce the affective values of that 
symbol, thus forming them into a concept. Every con- 
cept is in ultimate analysis a complex of sensory and 
motor presentations, and its physiological counterpart is 
the activity of the cortical and thalamic cell-groups 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 149 

which would receive the various sensations and correlate 
the various movements which make up that concept. 
Cognitive conation, urged by the interests of the moment, 
can juxtapose any number of concepts, and in turn perceive 
their likeness or unlikeness in respect to values determined 
by the actuating interest, as the protozoon distinguishes 
the likeness or unlikeness of two affective states. 

It is as a resultant of primary activities that the age- 
long elaborated experience of cognitive and motor acts 
has been moulded into the instrument of the conative 
tendencies inherent in all life, a functional and intermit- 
tent and precarious resultant interrupted by states of 
unconsciousness. 

There are several ' theories of sleep ' which serve to 
display the obscurity in which our conceptions of the 
fundamental principles of vital reaction are still enwrapt. 
The blood-supply of the brain can be shown to be in- 
creased during the activity and reduced during the resting- 
time of central consciousness ; and accordingly the theory 
has been put forth that anaemia of the brain is the cause 
of sleep. But the facts of blood circulation and pressure 
are the same for every organ of the body ; each obtains 
a larger blood-supply when it is active than when it is 
inactive. To say that anaemia of the brain is the cause 
of sleep is much as if we should say that congestion of 
the brain is the cause of thought, or that increased blood- 
supply to my muscles is the cause of my playing a game 
of tennis, and anaemia of those muscles the cause of my 
sitting down. 

Others offer as an explanation of sleep the partial 
intoxication or clogging of nerve-cells by their own waste- 
products or by the acid waste-products thrown into 
the circulation by the general activities of the body 
(Preyer, Obersteiner), or the exhaustion of intracellular 
oxygen (Pfliiger). Those again are not phenomena that 
are peculiar to nerve-cells, they are common to all tissues. 
The nerve-cells of the ganglia of bees and of sparrows 



150 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

have been studied after the day's exertion and after the 
night's repose, and have been found to become shrivelled 
and loaded with the accumulations of fatigue-stuffs. That 
is as one would expect. But Claparede, on the other hand, 
has pointed out with considerable elaboration that animals 
and men settle down to sleep at given hours, whether they 
are in a state of exhaustion or no, and that going to sleep 
at certain intervals is a matter of habit, of instinct, the 
utility of which is clearly to forestall actual exhaustion. 
That view, which is manifestly in accordance with facts, 
shows that we are to regard sleep not as an effect of exhaus- 
tion but as an act designed to guard against it ; but it 
does not tell us how that act is performed. 

The only theory that does attempt to supply such an 
explanation is that put forward by the great Spanish 
histologist, Ramon y Cajal. According to his view, 
supported by Duval, Waldeyer, Lepine, Lugaro, and 
others, the dendritic fibrils of the cells of the cortex 
retract during sleep sufficiently to break off their physio- 
logical connection with other cells, and it is to that break 
in the connection that the loss of central consciousness 
is due. 

Here we have a real explanation. The only objection 
that has been offered against it is that it is not proved. 
It is a matter of very considerable difficulty to render 
visible by the most elaborate methods of staining the 
minute arborizations of the delicate, translucent pseudopods 
of dead nerve-cells ; it is, of course, out of the question 
to observe living ones, in the higher animals at least. 
Yet Waldeyer has actually succeeded in observing living 
nerve-cells in a transparent crustacean, Leptodera hyalina, 
and found the pseudopodial processes of those cells to 
be as active during life as those of a rhizopod. Under 
artificial stimulation those amoeboid movements have 
been observed by Riichardt, Duval, and Kolliker. No 
other view appears plausible than that the neurons of 
the brain, those protozoa of thought, effect the connections 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 151 

and concatenations upon which motor and cognitive 
coordination depend by the movements of their pseudopods; 
and it appears inconceivable that those delicate proto- 
plasmic tentacles thrust in all directions, identical in the 
minutest detail of their structure with the lace-like 
pseudopods of a radiolarian, are in the living state 
motionless and rigid structures such as we see them 
silver-stained in the paralysis of death. 1 

Cajal and Duval assume that in sleep it is the 
connection between the terminal arborizations of the 
afferent sense elements and the recipient cells of 
the cortex and thalamus, that is dissevered, so as to 

1 That the functional connection between one nerve-cell, or 
neuron, and another is effected by the pseudopodial movements 
of the cells themselves is further evidenced by the following facts : 
Electrical stimulation of a nerve-fibre, that is, of the axis-cylinder 
process of a neuron, is conducted equally well in both directions, 
whether the cell have an afferent or efferent function. But if a 
nerve-path including two spinal neurons, and where an interneuronic 
junction is therefore interposed, be stimulated, conduction will 
only take place in one direction ; the arborizations of the extremity 
of the axis-cylinder of one cell being stimulated to effect a connection 
with the body of the other cell, while the latter, not possessing any 
arborizations in that direction, is unable to effect a connection with 
the extremity of the axis-cylinder of the other cell. Where, however, 
the arrangement is different, and both cells possess dendritic pro- 
cesses at the same junction, as in the nerve-cells of Medusa, the 
stimulus is propagated equally well in bnth directions. 

Stoppage of the circulation, and the application of various poisons 
only affect very slowly the conductivity of the nerve-trunk of a 
cell to stimuli, but it almost at once abolishes the transmission of 
a stimulus from one cell to another. 

The latent period of reaction, that is, the time that elapses between 
the application of a stimulus and its end effect, is greatly increased 
by the presence of an interneuronic junction in the path of con- 
duction ; and that delay is proportional to the number of such 
neuronic junctions. 

That the stimulus of functional activity is necessary in order 
that nerve-cells should put out dendritic processes at all has been 
shown by Berger, who examined the cells of the visual centres 
of young dogs, some of which had been blinded from birth. "While 
the visual neurons of the normal dogs showed the usual complex 
pseudopodial arborizations, those of the blind animals had remained 
embryonic and showed no trace of any pseudopodial processes. 



152 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

exclude sensory impressions. It appears, however, 
more probable that it is between the higher cortical 
centres of coordination and those below them, which are 
actuated by the afferent somatic impulses of the organism 
at large, that the break is to be sought. Insomnia is 
of two types, the one connected with intense intellectual 
or sensory excitement, where the higher coordinating 
centres of the cortex and the sensory centres are highly 
stimulated ; the other with intense emotional states, 
grief, worry, joy, and every form of affective excitement. 
In the one it is the activity of the intellectual centres 
which prevents the disconnection, in the other it is that 
of the afferent affective paths. In those conditions sleep 
may be induced by fixing consciousness on an object of 
no interest, an indifferent thought, or by monotonous 
(but not by emotionally expressive) sounds, so as to 
exclude intellectual and emotional interests from the focus 
of consciousness. Similarly, artificial hypnosis is brought 
about by fixing the attention on an object devoid of interest 
or significance, such as a bright point and thus endeavour- 
ing, as in going to sleep, to ' think of nothing at all.' 

In dreams conscious operations are ' undirected,' they 
are withdrawn from the coordinative influence of the 
intellectual centres, from all habitual paths of word- 
thought, of convention, in which it dwells during waking 
life ; and the deeper conative impulses of the organism, 
uninfluenced by the higher centres, have free play. 

Similarly is the grip and dominance of the cognitive 
cells relaxed in alcoholic intoxication ; the shackles of 
routine and convention are loosened and the impulsive 
forces which they smothered are set free. Under the 
Dionysian inspiration man becomes himself and shame- 
lessly begins to utter truth and be fearless. The natural 
conative forces and living desires assume command of 
their cognitive instruments of symbolic thought and 
become creative, and the liberated man feels as if a god 
spoke within him. Till presently the drugged organs are 



THE ORGANISM AND CONSCIOUSNESS 153 

further weakened ; the forces whose high developments 
arose in relation to them, the higher avatars of the conative 
impulses, are left without instruments ; only the lower 
remain. The god sinks into the brute. The retracted 
pseudopods of the bedoped cortical cells further shrivel 
and shrink, and the beast sinks helpless to sleep off his 
brief madness. 

The deeper causation of our psychic life, the springs 
of our activities, of our desires and motives, of our moods 
and character, do not lie in the superficial realm of 
perceptions and ' associations of ideas,' in that limited 
realm of focal consciousness which was wont to con- 
stitute ' the soul,' and was placidly introspected by 
scholastic psychology as an isolated and self-contained 
microcosm. Mental causation, the connection between 
one idea and another, between one affective state and 
another, between the various determinants and factors 
of behaviour, the causes of our acts and thoughts, are 
not to be found in that narrow realm. There are quite 
other causes than the ' motives ' and ' purposes ' of which 
we are aware, than the perceptible connections discoverable 
by introspection. Of much more consequence in those 
processes are physiological and biological laws and events 
which are as yet entirely obscure to us. As, for instance, 
the various protean transformations of the reproductive 
impulse ; the rhythms and periodicities in all vital acti- 
vities, of which the individual life, its cycle of youth, 
maturity, age, and death, with their transformations, 
is itself one. There is to mention but an instance 
besides the daily cycle through which all our powers 
and dispositions ebb and flow, a monthly periodicity 
which was probably established when our ancestors lived 
in an ambient of tidal waters, and which, far from being 
confined to one particular manifestation in woman, is 
of the first importance in the physiological and psycho- 
logical state of both sexes. The determination and issue 



154 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of our mental activities and behaviour is essentially 
connected with such facts, and a thousand more which 
our physiology and biology are scarcely even ready to 
approach. 

Nor is that all. The character of the dispositions 
and activities of our organism is of necessity affected 
by every physical agency that acts upon it, quite indepen- 
dently of any perception or knowledge we may have of 
that action. Atmospheric conditions, temperature, pres- 
sure, moisture, electrical states and disturbances, have 
their deep-working and inevitable influence upon all the 
functions and reactions of our organism, and many of 
us are well aware of the effect of those conditions upon 
their functions and moods. The total disposition of our 
organism, the source and determination of our feelings 
and of our acts, are thereby modified. There is not, to 
be quite consistent, an event in the universe which has 
not its ineludible repercussion in the physical state of 
our organism, and therefore in the constitution of our 
mind ; the sun, moon, and planets inevitably exercise 
upon every molecule and atom of our bodies, and conse- 
quently upon the inmost springs of our soul, an influence 
more ineludible than any ever dreamed of by astrological 
fancy. The causation of our acts and of our thoughts 
includes the entire universe. 



CHAPTER VII 
CONTROL AND FREEDOM 

THE unity of a highly complex and differentiated living 
organism, manifested in the minute precision of the 
adjustments which coordinate the manifold activities of 
its parts, becomes intelligible in the light of that funda- 
mental principle which I have described in the foregoing 
chapter as the Law of Equilibrium. We have now to 
consider certain consequences of that law which give 
rise to results of a seemingly opposite kind. How, for 
instance, if the conative dispositions actuating every 
reaction of the organism are identical throughout every 
part of it, can such a thing as a ' conflict of motives ' 
take place at all ? Such a conflict within an organism 
which is marked by the perfection of the self -adjustment 
of every one of its activities to all others, is a fact which 
ought indeed on any view to appear somewhat surprising. 
Again, in accordance with that principle, we regarded the 
activities of the central consciousness as fundamentally 
determined, like all other functions, by the conative 
disposition common at any moment to all parts of the 
organism a view which led us to emphasize what in 
the traditional language of dualism is spoken of as ' the 
influence of the body on the mind.' But, while that 
aspect is universally admitted, the converse aspect, ' the 
influence of the mind on the body,' is no less manifest. 
So much so that the central consciousness, hypostatized 
into a distinct entity, ' the mind,' ' the soul,' has imme- 
morially been conceived as ' ruling ' the body or ' earthly 

155 



156 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

tenement ' in which it dwelt, using it for its purposes, 
pulling, as it were, its various levers and springs, and 
operating its various organs or instruments on its own 
behalf. That primitive scheme, whatever modifications it 
may in later times have undergone, still substantially 
represents the vague current conceptions of psycho- 
physiological organization. And, not only does it represent 
the popular notion ; its influence can be traced in the 
most fundamental principles of our scientific physiology, 
however ' materialistic ' its professors. For ' the soul ' 
substitute the brain, and our most advanced physiological 
science reproduces the antique Oriental picture of a 
ruler who from his exalted seat imposes his will upon 
the drilled and obedient multitude of his servants, sending 
hither and thither orders and messages, ' nervous impulses,' 
which direct and control, ' stimuli ' which set organs 
working, ' inhibitions ' which veto their activity. Under 
the hegemony of that supreme ruler are hosts of minor 
potentates, ' controlling centres,' which in their own sphere 
repeat the same autocratic rule ' control,' ' stimulate 
and ' inhibit.' 

Whatever the grounds that originally gave rise to those 
conceptions, and the fantastic forms which they have 
at times assumed, it would be idle to pretend that ample 
colour is not lent to them by facts which are quite manifest 
and most naturally lend themselves to that interpretation. 
The central consciousness does appear to exercise a unique 
controlling influence upon the bulk of the activities of 
the organism. 

There is, however, no contradiction between those 
facts and the law of equilibrium. The reactions arising 
out of the conative dispositions common to all organs 
and functions differ according as the varied ambient 
conditions of each part and the differentiated functions 
which it discharges are different. In the vast majority 
of cases no differentiation in specialized activity can give 
rise to any conflict between one function and another, 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 157 

or to the dominance of one organ over others ; for the 
actuating impulse is the same in all. What is the 
' interest,' the feeling, of one is likewise that of all other 
organic elements ; and every mutual adjustment takes 
place by virtue of that equalized level of the sources of 
action, and of the feelings that represent them, throughout 
all the constituent parts of the organism. Conflict and 
dominating precedence can, however, arise in respect of 
one function, and one function only, that, namely, of 
cognition. 

So long as an organism is actuated by pure impulses 
alone and its consciousness is limited to pure feeling, 
there can be no conflict of motives, no hesitation or 
choice in its behaviour. The operation of two impulses 
tending in opposite directions, such as a self-preservative 
and a reproductive impulse, does not give rise to a conflict, 
but to an automatic resultant depending upon their 
respective strength in the circumstances of the moment. 
The organism is an automaton. But every cognitive act 
implies, as we have seen, a ' conflict of motives.' A 
cognition is the substitution for the feeling of the moment 
the primitive determinant of action of the presentation 
of a prospective feeling which is not actually present, 
but is impending in the future, of a hope or a fear for 
an actual pleasure or pain. Cognition is a fundamental 
modification of feeling, as feeling is a modification of 
conation. But, apart from that inherent conflict between 
a presented and an actual feeling, which attaches to all 
cognition, it follows from the function of any element 
cognitively differentiated that it exercises, by virtue of 
that function, an authority over other elements. No 
cognition can be transmitted organically as such. An 
element or organ that fulfils that function does not, and 
cannot, transmit ' information,' cognition, to other organs. 
Only the conative tendency, the feeling that represents 
it, can be transferred and distributed by way of organic 
continuity. The organism is accordingly dependent upon 



158 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

its cognitive elements ; it must ' take their word,' so to 
speak, rely on them, and conform in its attitude and 
behaviour towards changes in its external relations to their 
report. To determine these conditions and therefore the 
attitude of the whole organism towards them, is precisely 
the function of cognitive activities. Those activities are 
actuated by conations common to the whole organism, 
but the modification of behaviour brought about by 
the cognitive reaction is determined by the organ of 
cognition. Hence inevitably a privileged supremacy of 
all cognitive elements. 

In the cells around the mouth of the primitive metazoon 
the efforts of the organism to discriminate and explore 
the environment and the future are centred ; and in that 
region all cognitive specialization will take place : the 
body will be led by the head. With the extension of the 
range of forestalling cognition and of the scope of means, 
and the consequent multiplication of instrumental purposes 
and possible action, that dependence is correspondingly 
increased ; and so is at the same time the contrast and 
conflict between the far-ranging presentations of cognition 
and the actual feeling of the moment. 

The neuro-muscular apparatus which comprises the 
central nervous system and the sense-organs together with 
the limbs and skeletal muscles, constitutes in the verte- 
brates a single, structurally correlated organ of external 
behaviour. The parts of that system operate, as regards 
their specialized activity, not directly through the equi- 
librium of the conative impulses of the organism, but 
mediately through the motor cells of the brain, as a 
single structural system. The dependence of that 
apparatus upon the brain is quite different from the 
dependence of the visceral organs on the brain. The 
operation by which I move my arm, and that by which 
my gastric glands are set secreting at the sight of food 
are physiologically two utterly different operations. The 
idea of a given movement can in the one case give rise to 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 159 

that movement, for the ' idea ' is itself the activity of 
the very cells in the motor areas of the brain which 
produce it. Brain and muscular apparatus are a ready- 
assembled machine whereby desire is transformed into 
movement. And within that machine itself the con- 
ception of a controlling brain is so far accurate. But the 
brain cannot send ' orders ' to organs outside the neuro- 
muscular apparatus ; there is no provision whereby the 
brain can determine the secretion of the gastric glands. 
These are stimulated, like the muscle of the arm, by the 
' idea ' of food ; but what is transmitted to them by 
the brain is what it transmits to every portion of the 
organism, the affective change which that perception or 
that presentation brings about. It is the equilibration 
of the affective state of the whole organism, to which the 
gastric glands react. Though both activities follow upon 
an ' idea,' the one is said to be ' voluntary ' and the 
other not. 

It is the disproportionate development of the functions 
of cognition and molar movement in higher organisms 
that gives rise to the semblance of a supreme authority ; 
but that authority is in reality exercised within the 
special sphere only of one apparatus, which is itself but 
the instrument of the conations of the whole organism. 

That sphere of cognitive instrumentality has assumed 
in the ' human faculty ' proportions so colossal that they 
constitute a seemingly ' separate world,' in which the 
focal consciousness has come to dwell almost exclusively. 
Between that new world of cognition and the rest of the 
organism an ever widening cleft has been opened. Intellect 
is hopelessly isolated from the organism by a linguistic 
barrier, it speaks a different tongue ; it cannot transmit 
thoughts, concepts, judgments, words to the organism 
which only understands the language of affections, of 
feeling, of emotion. A solitude is spread around the 
intellectual consciousness, the loneliness of the thinker. 

Thus has come about in actual fact a separation, a 



160 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

contrast, an opposition, between the cogitating conscious- 
ness and ' the body.' The latter has become ' the beast,' 
and its spontaneous conative impulses have become ' the 
lower impulses.' 

The illusion thus created is, of course, an illusion merely. 
The enormously hypertrophied functions and organs of 
cognition are, for all their abnormal dimensions, but 
organs of the body. They do not use the body as an 
instrument, but, on the contrary, are themselves used as 
instruments by the body ; for they are in fact actuated 
not by any motive power peculiar to, and inherent in 
themselves, but by the conative dispositions of the organism 
as a whole. That ' separate world ' of theirs, as it has 
come to appear, is nothing but the sphere of ways and 
means by which the conative tendencies of the whole 
organism, and not of the brain alone, are carried out. It is 
to that sphere of means, of instrumentality in the operation 
of impulses, that the world of conscious action is confined. 
The contrast, the dualism, only exists between that vastly 
extended sphere of means, and the obscurity, the uncon- 
sciousness, into which the actuating forces are thus thrust 
away by the conscious intellect. 

It must not be overlooked, on the other hand, that 
those hypertrophied organs of cognition are themselves 
a part of the ' organism as a whole ' ; they too have 
their share in the determination of the resultant of the 
equilibrated conative disposition common to the entire 
organism. That dispositon is perpetually modified in the 
most momentous manner by the affective changes to 
which cognition gives rise. Conation, we have seen, can 
only become actualized through the self-revelation of 
experiential proof. And it is accordingly by the gigantic 
expansion of the field of experience in conceptual conscious- 
ness that the conative dispositions of life are set free in 
the vastness of a new world to assume the forms of new 
appetences, of aspirations which transcend its primitive 
organic forms, its physiological and instinctive reactions 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 161 

fixed in primordial structure and function, and reduce 
them to the status of ' lower impulses.' 

Between those fixed dispositions and the forms of 
conation developing in the opportunities of larger ex- 
perience there arise of necessity ' conflicts of motives.' 
Such conflicts are dependent, it must not be forgotten, 
upon cognition ; they are not so much conflicts between 
impulses themselves as between their claim to the present 
means of operation, or their subordination to the future, 
to a more remote realization. And it is the expansion of 
the range of outlook, its pretension from the actual 
moment to eternity itself, which gives rise to the com- 
plexity and significance of the conflict. One and the 
same impulse can quite well give rise to a conflict of 
motives the desire, for instance, to have our cake and 
eat it. 

As a matter of fact a conflict of motives only does 
arise in a situation that is new. In situations which 
are familiar, habitual, nothing of the sort can happen. 
We react to the familiar situation automatically, because 
there is nothing in that situation to be cognitively dis- 
covered ; cognition is not called upon to operate. And 
accordingly between the perception of the occasion for 
their activity and the reaction of our conative impulses 
there intervenes no conflict, no deliberation, no conscious 
psychological process at all. Introspective observation 
searches in vain in such a reaction of our being for any 
trace of a process of volition, for any manifestation of 
' the will ' ; and we say that our behaviour is reflex, 
is fixed in instinctive reaction, in custom, in habit. It 
takes place without any intervention, except in the 
recognition of the situation, of the processes of cognitive 
consciousness. It is the straight-out reaction of our 
established conations to the situation to which they are 
already adjusted. 

It is only when faced with a situation which is novel, 
or is rendered so by the tampering interference of thought, 

11 



162 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

that any conflict of motives ever does, or ever can, arise. 
The conative dispositions of the organism are then called 
upon to adjust themselves to a new situation, to devise 
a new means of satisfaction, a new mode of reaction. 
And it is that adjustment, that process of adaptation, 
which constitutes the conflict of motives. The ' hesita- 
tions ' of the organism are the oscillations in which the 
equilibrium disturbed by the new cognitive experience 
readjusts itself. 

The inhibition by an unpleasant experience of an old- 
established impulse can only be temporary. The un- 
pleasant impression will, after a time, fade, and the 
established impulse reassert itself. Only through repe- 
tition can the modification be established permanently ; 
and in general the more fundamental impulse which does 
not mean the most habitually operative tends to prevail ; 
as, for instance, the reproductive over the self-preservative 
impulse. 

The discussion of conflicts of motives has generally 
been undertaken from the point of view of the moral 
philosopher, and made an occasion to slop high sentiments 
over moral values, to the detriment of the scientific 
attitude. That brilliant and perverse writer, William 
James, stamps his heels with fiendish glee on all logic 
and science by proclaiming that the ' will ' of the hero 
' follows the path of greatest resistance.' Such language 
is doubtless edifying, but it is neither illuminating nor 
true. The operation of motives is not a theme of ethics, 
but of psychology, and all the phenomena of ideo-motor 
conflict and inhibition are just as clearly exhibited by the 
villain as by the hero. 

There is no ' following the path of greatest resistance ' 
in any conflict of motives. Every one of us yields in every 
moment of his life present satisfactions to perceived 
future advantages. The ' sacrifice ' is even established as 
a barely conscious automatic habit in all the drudgery, 
the beseeming deportment, the conformity of our routine 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 163 

of life. All human behaviour is governed by deterrents 
and inducements, by hopes and by fears, by the prevalence 
of prospective values over those of the moment ; and it 
is the function of all cognitive processes to carry out that 
substitution. The gold-hunter who faces the troglodytic 
conditions of life in Alaska in the hope of making a for- 
tune sacrifices the present to the future. And the entire 
organization of capitalistic society is founded on reliance 
on the psychological necessity of wage-earners to submit 
to the utterly distasteful necessity of working, under the 
pressure of the ideo-motor force of threatening starvation 
and the inducement of wages. All inhibition of present 
reluctance is governed by the powerful forces of induce- 
ments and deterrents. That relation constitutes nine 
hundred and ninety-nine parts of the mechanism of 
human life. We do not what actual, present impulse 
urges us to do, but what the ideo-motor power of induce- 
ments and deterrents determines. 

Psychologically every man has his price. Every one is 
ready to bear present discomfort or pain in view of clearly 
perceived advantage disproportionate to that discomfort 
or that pain. 

The moral philosopher's opportunity arises when the 
determining inducement thins out from gross, obvious, 
crude considerations of future consequences, on the same 
plane as the values of the present situation, to motives 
of attenuated abstraction. But there is no essential 
difference in the psychological mechanism of the martyr's 
choice and that of the most trivial foresight of daily life. 

It is stated as a principle, and repeated in every psycho- 
logical textbook, that abstract ideas have a more feeble 
ideo-motor value than concrete ones. Now that is simply 
not true. Men not saints or philosophers, but common 
herds and crowds are constantly frenzied into fantastic 
follies, reckless of all else, by abstract ideas. Abstract 
ideas are, in fact, the only things except love that will 
induce men to lay down their lives. The motive power 



164 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of ideas, their efficiency as modifiers of action, does not 
depend upon their being concrete or abstract, but in the 
degree in which they are believed. 

Belief is the condition of every idea's power as a 
determinant of action ; and the degree of that power 
depends upon the degree of belief. The whole end of 
cognitive processes is to bring about a degree of belief 
adequate to warrant action in accordance with it. 
The supposed feebleness of ' abstract ' ideas as motives 
has nothing to do with their abstractness, but arises 
from the circumstance that, in most cases, abstract 
ideas are not so vividly, so completely believed in as 
concrete ones. We are extremely prone in the artificial 
symbolism of our word-consciousness to profess belief, 
to believe that we believe in notions which, in reality, 
we believe in very imperfectly or not at all. The 
professed belief, the idea which we choose to persuade 
ourselves to believe that we believe, has, of course, no 
ideo-motor force at all. The fact of belief consists wholly 
and solely in its motive power. If we really do believe 
in a notion, it matters not one jot whether it be abstract 
or concrete ; of the two the abstract belief will probably 
be the most intractable determinant of action. To the 
ignorant martyr, to the Mahdist who rushes the machine- 
guns at Omdurman, his convictions are an even more 
powerful inducement than wages to the proletarian work- 
man. And in the days when the latter believed in ' duty ' 
and in religion, he required far less inducement in the 
form of wages. The ' will ' of the fanatic, the obstinacy 
of the unthinking, is as the strength of ten because their 
hearts are pure from doubting thought. 

Uncertainty, hesitation, wavering, weakness of the will, 
are introduced by thinking. The native hue of resolution 
is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought. With 
intellectualism you have the true dissolution of the will, 
the hesitancy of action paralysed by unformed and 
qualified cognition. Your thinker is ousted in the field 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 165 

of action by the curt decision of the individual of limited 
and narrow thought, to whom his formulas are real, and 
who looks with the contempt of the man of action upon 
the ideologue. 

But thought, while it is the shatterer of primitive 
credulity and primitive resolution, is likewise the true 
creator of the highest forms of will. ' Strength of will ' 
in that higher sense is the product of thought. If the 
ideo-motor concept which conflicts with the present 
impulse is the final conclusion of a full consideration 
that has left no loophole for the ^consideration of 
unforeseen aspects, its power is developed in its full 
degree. 

The methodological fault of the stereotyped psycho- 
logical discussion on the ' conflict of motives ' situation 
lies in confining consideration chiefly on the hesitating 
mind at the moment when it is confronted with the 
necessity of choice. It is not in the conflict itself, but 
in its antecedents, that the determining action of ' will ' 
can be rightly appreciated. That ' will ' is a product 
of cognitive evolution. The crux of its power lies not in 
the conflict of choice, but in the antecedent process of 
resolution ; it is the latter that bestows upon an idea 
its ideo-motor power. The force of the will depends not 
on any ' I will,' but on the thoroughness of our self- 
analytic survey. If that has not been complete, if it has 
not been sufficiently honest and sincere, a loophole is 
still left for ex-tempore decision, and our ' resolution ' 
stands in danger of being a mere New-Year's resolution 
subject to conflicts of motives. The assurance with which 
you deal with a situation on principles the bearings of 
which you have fully and maturely considered, is identical 
with the assurance with which you speak on a subject 
on which you possess full and detailed knowledge and which 
you have long meditated. The strongest will is the most 
deliberate, the longest will. Giordano Bruno, the supreme 
historical example of the martyr's choice under the 



166 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

inspiration of purely abstract ideas, did not make that 
choice in a moment of exaltation on the theatre of his 
triumph, but daily and hourly during seven long years 
of imprisonment in which every inducement was offered 
to him to admit the expediency of a lie. 

The same long-drawn process is exhibited in Plato's 
account of the resolution of Socrates not to avail himself 
of Crito's offers of rescue : " All my life, not only now, 
I have been a man who can obey no friend but reason, 
the reason that seems best to me after I have thought 
the matter out. And the reasons I used before I cannot 
give up now, because this has befallen me. I honoured 
and reverenced them before ; they seem much the same 
still. And if we have nothing better to bring forward 
now, you may be sure I shall not give my consent." 1 

' Strength of will ' consists in having completely ' made 
up one's mind ' ; there is no other secret about it. All 
the tasks, the aims, that we contemplate and which we 
should desire to be sufficiently ' strong ' to achieve, are 
in reality surprisingly easy of achievement. The one 
condition required is that all other aims, all other tasks, 
shall be ruthlessly discarded and set aside. Most people, 
for instance, would very much like to become rich, and 
they lament that they find it so difficult to make money. 
Now it is one of the easiest things in the world to make 
money. It is almost impossible to avoid becoming a 
millionaire should one undertake the task. The sole 
condition is that all other aims whatsoever shall be 
surrendered. And that is precisely what prevents people 
from becoming rich. Those weak-minded ones desire 
wealth, but only as a means to other things. They would 
like to make money and at the same time to enjoy it and 
spend it. That, of course, is futile. If you wish to 
make money you must not think of enjoying yourself, 
of doing this, that or the other ; you must think of nothing 
else, value no other motive than that of making money. 
1 Crito, 46, b, c. 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 167 

And you will inevitably become a millionaire with wealth 
beyond the dreams of avarice, and not a notion of how 
to spend it, not a possibility of any other satisfaction 
under the sun. 

So it is of every aim, of every task. Whether you 
accomplish it and achieve your purpose does not depend 
on whether you are endowed with a strong will or afflicted 
with a weak one. It depends on whether you have once 
for all clearly and beyond all possibility of repentance 
estimated the value of the task to you, and decided how 
much you are prepared to sacrifice to it. You have other 
desires ; is your purpose of such value to you that you 
will sacrifice those other desires to its accomplishment ? 
If you have once clearly judged that it is so, that nothing 
else, that purpose unaccomplished, will afford you true 
satisfaction, that you can never repent that satisfaction, 
that you must always regret the non-satisfaction of the 
desire that urges you then, when opposing motives are 
brought before you, there will no longer be any ' conflict 
of motives/ none at least the issue of which can be in doubt. 
You have resolved the conflict beforehand. 

The drawback to all such focused volition is the very 
sacrifice it entails. We can only have one character if 
that character is to possess any ' strength ' ; if our 
character is formed in the only way in which it can be 
formed, that is, from a single point of view, it is necessarily 
a horrible character from every other point of view. To 
be many-sided we must be weak. Focus your character, 
your aim, your conduct, and you have the squalid 
destitution of the millionaire, the horrible selfishness of 
the idealist. That is inevitable. 

The old theologico- juridical notion that responsibility 
depends upon knowledge is wholly justified. No ideo- 
motor abstract can be prepotent over another, can prevail, 
unless it is clearly known, apprehended, believed to be 
in reality truer, higher, of higher value. In our criminal 
classes the traditional notions of our morality are, of 



168 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

course, perfectly familiar ; but they are not believed. 
The professional thief regards all the conventions of 
property as but legalized theft ; his ' conscience ' holds 
him perfectly justified, his only deterrent is the police. 
To a society which is fundamentally immoral, which is 
founded on principles which no longer inspire belief, 
which have become transparent lies, it is impossible to 
enforce its conventional morality. So long as theft, 
adultery, murder, perjury, are legalized and justified 
in a society, it is in vain for it to expect a moral stigma 
to attach to particular forms of theft, of adultery, of 
perjury, of murder. 

The control of thought, the control of ' attention,' 
consist in exactly the same psychological mechanism as 
the control of conduct by the determination of an idea, 
of a principle. In order to carry out any train of thinking, 
a task must be set to thought. And the ' attention,' 
the focus of consciousness is held to that set task by 
the inducement or deterrent power of a consideration 
which supplies the affective motive that makes the relevant 
ideas focal, and prevents impulses which are tending to 
break through the control of that idea from becoming 
focal. Apart from that ideo-motor control which furnishes 
a relevant, consistent, ' association ' of ideas, thought is 
naturally rhapsodic, incoherent. Its ' associations of 
ideas/ if undirected by the controlling influence of a set 
task, will not be at all the Hartleyan laws of orderly 
association, but will be supplied by impulses, secret, 
maybe, and unavowed, which will use the kaleidoscopic 
sequence of conscious presentations as symbols of their 
affective states. Undirected cogitative behaviour is what, 
but for the control of ideas, be they but the common 
conventions of civilized deportment, the external behaviour 
of a person would be who should walk the street and obey 
every primordial impulse as it arose, until safely locked up. 

It is one and the same mechanism that constitutes all 
noetic psychic action from the dawn of cognition to the 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 169 

highest human conduct the modification of immediate 
reaction by the presented anticipation of a future and the 
reflection of a past ; the influence upon the actual instant 
of something which appears to exist only as a feeling, 
an idea, a thought ; the effect of things invisible upon 
things visible, of mind over matter. That control is 
the expression of the time-protension of life by its per- 
petual renewal ; and it is the character of its reactions 
from the first rudiments of sensation to the human faculty ; 
it is that pretension in time which, looking before and 
after, stretches out the span of reaction from the present 
instant to eternity ; it is psychic control, it is free-will. 

The sempiternal question of free-will presents itself 
under three main aspects : the first of these is a mis- 
conception, a pseudo-question ; the second involves the 
very foundations of our logic and world-conception ; the 
third is a question of scientific fact. 

If we put entirely out of consideration physical causation 
and the extent to which the sequence of mental events 
is bound up with it, we are left, nevertheless, with a 
sequence of causation as definite as any which we may 
recognize in the physical world and one, indeed, which 
we have much more valid grounds for recognizing ; for 
in the physical world we perceive the sequence merely, 
whereas in consciousness we perceive not only the sequence, 
but also the nexus in terms of psychological values between 
one mental state and another. That connection is the 
more manifest the more our mental processes are con- 
trolled by a directing purpose or ideo-motor principle, 
a cognition. 

The fact of that coherent causal sequence is, by a 
strange confusion, conceived to be in contradiction with 
the notion of ' freedom.' That notion, and the whole 
question as to whether we can lay claim to that freedom, 
does not arise from any abstract idea of freedom, but 
from a certain undismissible, intuitive sense which we 
designate by that name. And it is with that sense or 



170 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

persuasion, and not with any abstractly defined ' freedom,' 
that the causality of mental processes is in the first 
instance contrasted. And that intuition which protests 
against every discursive conclusion that would bely it 
does not at all proclaim the anarchy of consciousness, 
and claim it to be a delirium of inchoate inconsequence, 
but, on the contrary, emphatically claims a sensible 
orderliness, a discreet rule and power of determination. 
It is not any abstracted theoretical ' freedom ' which our 
common-sense demands, but the freedom of the will. 
That expression belongs, unfortunately, to a primitive 
faculty-psychology in terms of which we can no longer 
think ; but it is perfectly clear that what is meant by 
it is the control which a presentation constituting an 
inducing hope or deterrent fear exercises over present 
feeling and conation, the control which an idea exercises 
over thought and action, the control which a set purpose 
exercises over the sequence of our thoughts and acts. 
But that relation is precisely the principle of causation 
in cognitive consciousness. Our sense and intuition of 
freedom is the consciousness of the psychological relation 
between mental facts. We feel that sequence to be 
governed by the psychological value of the facts just as 
it appears to us in consciousness ; and that relation 
constitutes our sense of freedom. In short, the sense of 
freedom which we have, and which is so vivid that hardly 
any argument can shake it, arises from that self-same 
psychological causation which in our theorizing is opposed 
to it, that is, to itself. 

So long, then, as we confine ourselves to those intuitive 
grounds on the strength of which we claim ' freedom ' 
for our ideo-motor control, far from there being any sort 
of opposition between that intuition and mental causation, 
the two are identical, and the latter constitutes the very 
ground of our claim. 

It is when we pass from that particular case of causation 
to the principle of causality in general, and from the 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 171 

particular intuition of freedom to the converse principle 
of necessity in general, that we come upon a dilemma 
which bears upon the particular question of our mental 
causation only inasmuch as it bears upon every causation 
and every event actual or possible. 

We only know of such a thing as necessity as a logical 
rule by means of which we operate for cognitive purposes 
our processes of conceptual thought. Apart from that 
technical use we know of no such thing in the universe. 
When the notion is applied to the course of events which 
we observe to take place uniformly, to the ' laws of nature,' 
the predication is not only grossly illegitimate, it is wholly 
inapplicable and essentially unmeaning. Whatever can 
be deduced by virtue of logical necessity alone, exists 
already in the data from which it is deduced ; and therefore 
nothing can ever happen by virtue of necessity. 

The only ' necessity ' known to us is logical and mathe- 
matical necessity. But that is only the effect of the 
groping feebleness of our mental processes, which compels 
us to deploy and explicate what is all the while contained 
in our premisses and data, and what we might see there 
directly and immediately without any laborious explication 
were our mental grasp a little stronger and our vision a 
little keener. That logical necessity only comes into 
existence from our intellect's need of a crutch. We 
demonstrate at length what is implicit in our datum, 
and thus draw from that a necessary consequence, much 
in the same way as we use paper and pencil to ' work 
out ' relations which with a little more acuteness and 
concentration we might ' work out ' without that aid. 
To demonstrate is merely to point out what is staring 
us in the face. It requires a laboured demonstration to 
show that a notion of ours is nonsense because it affirms 
a thing and denies it in the same breath. But it is not 
our demonstration per necessitate, that makes it nonsense ; 
it is nonsense all along, whether we demonstrate it or no, 
and whether the ' stupidity against which the very gods 



172 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

fight in vain ' can or cannot perceive the force of our 
demonstration. 

And so likewise when we explicate mathematically the 
implicit consequences of our data, we are but spelling 
out what has already been told us in those data. The 
conclusion to which we arrive at the end of our calculation 
is not the consequence of our calculation, but of our data 
hence it is necessary. The data of the mathematician 
always include all the powers involved in the .problem, 
and also their qualities ; for mathematics can only deal 
with quantities, and can therefore never evolve a new 
source of power or a new quality of power from its data. 
' Give me matter and motion, and I will construct the 
universe,' says the mathematician. Allowing for the nai've 
conception that ' matter and motion ' are the constituents 
of the universe, what is meant by that feat is this : 
' Give me all the powers of the universe and their qualities, 
and also the " laws " of operation of those powers, that 
is, the way in which those powers act ; give me also an 
initial position or disposition of those powers from which 
to start if you give me all those things as data, there 
being now nothing else in the universe to give, I will pro- 
ceed to perform the feat of constructing a universe which 
is already constructed.' 

The mathematical physicist's boast is inspired by his 
knowledge of the laws of physical action, which since 
he knows them he omits to mention among his desiderated 
data. And it is those laws of physical behaviour which 
he and others sometimes place in the same category as 
mathematical necessity, reckoning them as parts of the 
mathematical process and not of the data. But the 
transfer of that crutch of our understanding which we call 
necessity, and which is really implicitness, to the ' laws ' 
of the behaviour of things, is sheer confusion. A ' law ' 
is merely a description of the way in which things are 
observed to act ; and there is not even the slightest 
similarity between that behaviour and the apodeictic 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 173 

implicitness of our logical and mathematical relations. 
In fact, that description of behaviour, that observation 
from experience and experiment, is always required by 
the mathematician or logician, as a part of his data ; it 
can never be evolved by deduction. The attribution of 
necessity to events arose long ago as a mythological 
idea ; events, instead of being regarded as manifestations, 
signs, of power, were imagined to be, on the contrary, 
subject to some power which the Greeks called Moira, 
or Fate ; Christian science slightly altered that pagan 
interpretation by saying that they ' obey laws.' To-day, 
when mythological ideas have lost much of their force, 
this is translated in most minds by imagining that, 
although we are not able to perceive the ' necessity ' of 
things behaving as they do, that behaviour is nevertheless 
determined by a necessity similar to the implicitness 
which we call logical necessity ; a view which is confirmed 
as, with the expansion of our knowledge, one or several 
laws become subsumed under more general laws, as, for 
instance, Boyle's law under the laws of thermodynamics. 
There is of course no perceivable ' necessity ' why stones 
should fall to the ground instead of flying upwards or 
remaining suspended in mid-air. And the circumstance 
that they always do fall to the ground, or that they will 
always do so throughout eternity, does not make the 
behaviour one whit more ' necessary.' 

Even that uniformity, which is loosely identified with 
necessity, is only quite relatively known. Suppose there 
is nothing extravagant in the supposition that the laws 
of nature, the law of gravitation, say, were in process 
of slow modification through the ages, so that the gravi- 
tational behaviour of things would not be quite the same 
now as it was ten million years ago ; we should be quite 
incognizant of the fact, and should have no means of 
discovering it. 

It is otherwise, however, with the principle of causality, 
viz., that everything must have a cause as distinguished 



174 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

from the principle of causation, viz., that similar causes 
produce similar effects. Thai depends entirely upon 
logical necessity ; and it introduces that logical necessity 
into the entire universe. It introduces that necessity into 
the whole universe because every event in the universe 
is, by that principle, determined by the state of the 
universe at the preceding moment, this again by that 
of the moment before, and so on through an infinite 
regression ; so that nothing can happen that is not 
implicit in the state of the universe at any preceding 
time, at its very beginning, if we suppose it to have had 
a beginning. And it is this ' necessity/ this determinism, 
which is the great logical obstacle to the concept of freedom 
in the particular case of the events of our minds. 

This necessity which attaches to the principle of 
causality, and which imposes a rigid determinism not 
on psychological events only, but on all events, not on 
the events of this universe only, but of all possible and 
imaginable universes, is a logical necessity, that is, it is, 
like all necessity, a feature of our methods of cogitation ; 
and, as I propose to show, it is nothing else, and can never 
by any feat of legerdemain be transferred from the pro- 
cesses of our cogitation to the objects to which they are 
applied. 

All cognitive experience being a sign of something else, 
implies a cause of which it is the effect ; hence the infinite 
regression of causality in time and also in being. While 
we have no concept by means of which the infinite 
regression in time can be arrested, the infinite regression 
in being is arrested by the concept of an efficient cause, 
a source of action, a power. That being reached as the 
cause of all action, there is no need to go farther. Logical 
necessity is attached to the principle of causality because 
to repudiate it would be to admit that a new accession 
of power could from time to time be introduced into the 
universe from outside it, that is, from nowhere ; or, in 
other words, that a new power could arise out of nothing 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 175 

and be created. Now since it must come from nowhere, 
that new power would have to create itself ; but in order 
to create itself it would first have to exist, and it cannot 
exist before it is created. In fine, the repudiation of the 
principle of causality, which is a form of the principle 
of conservation of substance, would amount to saying 
that A is at the same time A and not-A. 

It is by virtue of that logical necessary causality that 
the mathematician is enabled to ' construct the universe,' 
certain data being supplied ; that is to say, he will deduce 
mathematically all the events of the universe, if he is 
supplied with the data at a given moment. He is able 
to perform that deduction because he can deal with 
quantities, and the total quantity of power remains, by 
logical necessity, unchanged. The claim to construct thus 
the universe is the declaration of universal determinism. 

But in order to perform that deduction and to justify 
determinism, another assumption is necessary in the 
mathematician's data, in addition to the postulate of 
the conservation of substance, which is the only element 
of the problem to which logical necessity attaches. Not 
only must the quantity of power be given and invariable, 
but also the quality of that power must be given and 
invariable. By * quality ' of power is meant the manner 
in which that power acts, the character or direction of 
its action. That quality includes not only all the known 
' laws of nature,' but all the ' laws of nature,' known and 
unknown ; it includes not only a description of the 
behaviour of energy in every existing circumstance but 
also of its behaviour in any circumstance. In order to 
' construct the universe ' and to justify determinism 
those ' laws of nature ' must be (i) given, i.e. completely 
known, and they must be (2) invariable. Otherwise the 
task is impossible. 

We have seen that we have no absolute guarantee that 
the ' laws of nature ' are invariable. Assuming them, 
however, to be invariable, they must also be completely 



176 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

known. If we knew all the laws of nature, we should have 
a complete description of the way in which power would 
act under any circumstances, a complete description of 
its quality. We do not possess that complete description, 
and failing that, we cannot proceed with our task of con- 
structing the universe. Our knowledge of the laws of 
nature is limited to a certain set of conditions, and any 
departure from those observed conditions will entirely 
invalidate our application of those laws. Before the 
Newtonian formulation of the laws of gravitation, for 
instance, we were familiar with the law that bodies fall 
towards the ground. The behaviour of the moon and 
the sun constituted a breach of our law of gravitation ; 
they did not fall to the ground, whereas according to our 
law they should have done so. A wider and more accurate 
formulation of the law was necessary in order to show 
that the apparent breach was in fact a consequence of 
the mode of operation of gravitational force. The mode 
of reaction of living organisms is different from that of 
physical inorganic objects, and therefore constitutes a 
breach of physical and chemical laws as we know them ; 
therefore we do not know either the laws or the con- 
figuration of living matter completely enough to apply 
those laws. 

Neither a variation in the laws of nature, nor a condition 
not provided for in our knowledge of them, constitutes 
a breach in the principle of causality ; for that does not 
depend upon the invariability of the quality, but of the 
quantity, of power. The former would constitute a breach 
in the principle of causation, and would wholly stultify 
our power of making use of its logical necessity. Under 
conditions entirely different from those in which our 
' laws of nature ' have been formulated, two things may 
happen : (i) a complete change in the behaviour of power 
may take place so as to constitute a breach of the principle 
of causation ; or (2) the change in the behaviour of power 
may simply be correlated to the peculiarity of the con- 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 177 

ditions and be a function of the laws of nature as known 
in other conditions. 

In order that our construction of the universe, that is 
to say, the proof of determinism, may be carried out, all 
those data are required. Not only the invariability of 
quantity, but also that of quality, is demanded ; and, 
while the former is a logical necessity, the latter is not. 
Our logical deduction proceeds not only upon the postulate 
that no new power is surreptitiously introduced into our 
data, but also that that power will always tend in the same 
direction but for the modifications which are functions of 
varying configurations (this in mechanics is expressed by 
the first law of motion). But in circumstances differing 
from those from which our ' laws ' have been formulated 
the essential quality of that power which we do not 
know may result in a breach of known laws ; and if 
a change should, under those conditions, take place in 
the quality itself of that power, so that its variability 
will cease to be the same function of the configuration, 
then, while the principle of causality will remain un- 
affected, our logical deduction by means of its ' necessity ' 
will be stultified ; for a change will have taken place 
which will not be included in our data. 

Failing complete data as to how our power is going 
to act under all circumstances, our ' necessity ' is left 
' in the air,' a pure abstraction. And that ' necessity ' 
which we transfer from the principle of causality to events 
amounts purely to this that any event is predicable 
provided all the factors of that event are known. That 
* necessity ' does not apply merely to the universe as we 
know it, but to any universe that the most incoherent 
imagination can devise ; it does not only apply to any event 
that we can observe, but also to the most thaumaturgic 
performance that can be conceived. It is a * necessity ' 
which is infinitely elastic. With all the data supplied 
you can not only ' construct the universe,' but you can 
predict the acts of an inebriate god. 

12 



178 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

That ' necessity ' which is a character of every possible 
and impossible event is not a characteristic of any, and 
cannot therefore be opposed to any ' freedom ' which we 
can conceive. But to say that an event is ' necessary ' 
because from the total sum of its constituent factors it 
follows necessarily, is merely to say that having taken 
place it cannot not have taken place ; for included in 
the sum of its factors is the fact that the event will take 
place when all the other factors are given, that is, the 
event itself is one of the data of its own determination. 
That c necessity ' does not lie in the event, but in our 
groping analytical apprehension of it ; it is not a character 
of any sequence, but a character of our cognitive processes, 
which we transfer to the object of their investigation. 
That ' necessity ' is an intellectual illusion. 

The third and most concrete form of that illusion exer- 
cises an unacknowledged influence upon its more general 
aspects ; for psychical causation is tacitly assimilated to 
physical causation and suspected of being ' governed ' by 
the latter, which, being apprehended objectively, is 
assumed to be unconnected with any psychical values, 
and to proceed according to laws which are not those of 
psychical causation. That implication is brought to a 
sharp focus by scientific materialism. 

Even dualism, except in its most extreme and mytho- 
logical form, generally allows to-day psycho-physical 
parallelism, namely, that to every change in conscious 
processes there corresponds a change in the organism. 
But it then follows that, if the laws of physics and chemistry 
hold good in the physical organism, the sequence of mental 
events must inevitably conform to the laws of physics 
and chemistry. Any determinism to be found in the latter 
must likewise apply in the same degree to the events of 
consciousness. 

When Victorian materialism emphasized that point of 
view the scientific outlook was considerably simpler and 
more sharply defined than it is to-day. ' Consider, for ex- 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 179 

ample/ Victorian science would point out, 'the movements 
of a planetary system. A planet is subject to innumerable 
perturbations ; besides the larger movements of revolution 
in its orbit and of rotation on its axis, it quivers and 
deviates in countless ways. But every one of those move- 
ments takes place in accordance with a definite and rigid 
law, which we are able to formulate, which is very simple, 
and which applies with mathematical accuracy. A planet 
cannot move the millionth part of an inch out of its course 
except in conformity with those laws ; its slightest quiver 
is mathematically expressible and deducible ; the precise 
position which it occupies at any moment is the mathe- 
matically exact resultant of rigidly operating relations, 
so that from the slightest disturbance we can with secure 
confidence deduce the nature of the disturbing cause, as 
did Le Verrier and Adams when they discovered the 
planet Uranus without setting eyes on it. Our own 
organisms are composed of exactly the same substances 
as the material world, and their atoms and molecules 
must therefore move in a manner as rigidly uniform as 
do the planets, although we are not able to observe those 
movements and to formulate their laws so fully. It 
follows that when we appear to choose a course of action 
according to the value of a feeling, an idea, a presentation, 
a thought, that is a delusion ; for the molecular phenomena 
in our organisms proceed according to laws which admit 
of no alternative. And we are driven to conclude that 
our material movements which are governed by the laws 
of physics and chemistry would take their course in 
exactly the same way as they do, and that we should 
behave exactly as we do, if we had no feelings, no ideas, 
and no thoughts.' 

Apart from the numerous assumptions contained in 
that argument, Victorian science in propounding it 
ignored its own most glorious achievement. For by 
treating the molecular dynamics of living organisms 
as equivalent to the dynamics of a planetary system it 



180 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

set aside the conception of evolution. It assumed that no 
fundamental change has taken place in the behaviour of 
natural energies during the evolution from the simpler 
to the most highly organized forms of material configura- 
tions. We realize to-day much more vividly than could 
have been done in the days of Liebig, Vogt, Huxley, and 
Tyndall, that a very far-reaching evolution has taken 
place in the conditions and constitution of material systems 
between those observed in the movements of a planetary 
system and those taking place in the molecular systems 
of living matter. It is a far cry from the simple gravita- 
tional movements of the former to the complex intra- 
molecular changes in the latter, and to draw conclusions 
from the one to the other is, to say the least, highly 
hazardous. But from the point of view which physical 
science has now reached the two processes are not even 
parallel and strictly comparable, and the conclusions of 
Victorian materialism are not only hazardous but positively 
inapplicable. Those * laws of nature ' which are the 
formulas for the movements of large masses, the laws of 
gravitation, of molar dynamics, of hydrostatics, of pressures 
and temperatures, of radiation, appear to us to-day in 
the light of statistical laws, of resultant averages ; and their 
simplicity, their uniformity, are but the total effect of a 
multitude of minute actions which are themselves neither 
uniform nor simple, but infinitely varied. The laws of 
intra-molecular changes are not the laws of observable 
molar changes, which result from the mutual neutralization 
of molecular actions into a simple and uniform average. 
Those molecular actions assuming the ultimate quality, or 
* law,' of their constituent energy to be itself invariable 
must vary according to the internal constitution of mole- 
cular systems, which is becoming exceedingly complex. 
The simpler the molecule, the simpler and more ' uniform ' 
its action ; the more complex the molecule, the greater 
the variation in effects produced by very small causes, 
the greater, that is, the deviation of the system from the 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 181 

statistical law. The ultimate character of the constituents 
tells on the result in proportion to the complexity. 

The fundamental conditions and constitution of the 
protoplasmic system of energy are admittedly as unknown 
to us as in the nineteenth century, but the progressive 
complexity lability, and instability, that have led up to 
it are more fully apprehended. Whatever our ignorance 
of the exact chemical and physical conditions of living 
matter, the very fundamental difference which I have 
pointed out, namely, that by virtue of the power of rebuild- 
ing the configuration of energy destroyed in each reaction 
a living system is the only one in which a reaction can 
be repeated and modified, is an observable fact. That 
circumstance alone precludes the assimilation of the organic 
molecular system to the planetary or any other inorganic 
system, for the difference between them is precisely that 
the one can be modified and the other cannot. That 
modification which does not take place in inorganic 
systems, is the concomitant of feeling, and of presenta- 
tions which are modifications of feeling. 

Our behaviour is modified by feeling and can be modified 
by presentations, and it is that relation which constitutes 
psychic causation or * freedom.' The causal values of 
presentations differ completely from the causal values of 
molar physical factors, but there is no valid ground for 
supposing that they therefore differ from the physical 
causal values of biochemical factors ; for to the difference 
in the physical conditions and configurations of those 
factors there must needs correspond a difference in their 
causative action. Travelling to a given place in a strange 
country, I come upon cross-roads ; I turn to the right, 
but after proceeding a little way I meet an inhabitant 
and gather from him that I should have turned to the 
left. I retrace my steps and follow the other road. The 
changes in the movements of my body are physical 
events quite similar to the perturbations, of the planet 
Neptune, and the whole process, like the astronomical 



182 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

disturbance, can be considered from first to last as a purely 
physical process, every psychical aspect being eliminated. 
But if that process of redistribution of energy be considered 
thus, it will be found that the causal values of the factors 
are entirely transformed. In terms of massive events 
and of observable physical laws there is no expressible 
relation between the waves impinging on my tympanum 
and the changes in my movements. The sounds may 
be shrill or deep, high or low, short or prolonged, the 
articulations may be those of Dutch, Greek, or Arabic 
words ; instead of being spoken, they may be written in 
black on a green board, or in green on a black stone pro- 
vided the words are understood, the result will be exactly 
the same. The process to which that physical cause gives 
rise in the organism is not only unlike the process of 
gravitation or any other molar event, it is, in a sense, 
the exact opposite. The physical effect of sound-waves 
on a molar mass, and in fact on the membrane of the 
tympanum, is a series of harmonic vibrations, the factors 
of which are the tension, elasticity, weight, etc., of the 
vibrating mass ; that is, the whole process depends on 
the summation of the elements of the mass affected, 
just as the gravitational force acts on the planet as if 
the total mass of its varied elements were concentrated 
at the centre. Whereas that process is the result of 
a statistical levelling down of a multitude of molecular 
actions to an average, the organic process is the outcome 
of a series of selective reactions, in which the resultant 
direction is determined by the choice by each element 
of one direction of action out of a number of possible 
directions. The cells of the auditory organs select certain 
of the impinging waves ; the cells of the auditory centres 
select certain effects of the auditory stimulus, and select 
the path of their transmission to the cells of the speech 
centre ; these further select the paths of association with 
other sensory and motor centres ; and finally a selected 
group of motor cells selects the paths of motor stimulation 



CONTROL AND FREEDOM 183 

to certain muscles, the coordinated contractions of which 
give rise to the modification of molar motion. That 
process is the reverse of the molar reaction ; instead of 
the diverse activities of the elements being statistically 
integrated into an algebraical average, so that their 
differences are eliminated in the combined result, the 
physical stimulus is, on the contrary, redistributed among 
a succession of highly differentiated elements, so that it 
is transformed into the specialized activity of those several 
elements. Those intricate selective actions and special- 
izations are themselves the outcome of countless similar 
selective actions reaching back to the beginnings of life. 
tDwing to the continuity of those reactions, which are 
successive modifications of one another, the entire past 
of the organic system is coordinated with the actual, 
or active, present impulse which tends in a given direction. 
A complete transformation of the values of the external 
physical impulse is thus effected. 

The old joke about the ' movements of molecules being 
transformed into feelings ' is a metaphysical chestnut 
which has ceased to be amusing ; what is transformed 
into feeling is not, of course, the movements of anything, 
but the causes of movements, that is, impulses to move- 
ment, and that is equally true in physics and in psychology. 
' Moving particles ' are but the sensorily conceived signs 
of the sources of action. To imagine that your thoughts 
and your behaviour must be * governed ' either by the 
* laws ' of physics and chemistry or by your feelings and 
presentations, is a mere muddled assumption compounded 
of secular misconceptions. What ground have you for 
supposing that the two are different and must have 
different results ? The ' laws ' of chemistry and physics 
are but the description of the behaviour of objects ; no 
observation or description of the behaviour of molecular 
matter in living objects is available. It must, according 
to the principles of physical causation, and does in fact, 
as evidenced by the molar behaviour of living organisms, 



184 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

differ radically from our observed and described inorganic 
behaviour. That difference is, according to physical 
principles, a function of the difference in configuration 
of the systems ; it may be the same function of that 
difference as in inorganic systems, or it may be a quite 
different function. In the first case the organic behaviour 
would be describable as a ' law ' from a complete know- 
ledge of organic configurations and our knowledge of 
inorganic physical and chemical ' laws ' ; in the other 
case new equations would be necessary in order to subsume 
both inorganic and organic laws under a more compre- 
hensive formula. In either case there is no ground what- 
ever for supposing that those ' laws ' of behaviour differ 
from those of psychical values. 

That much is profoundly illusory in the apparent 
determination of behaviour by the forms of consciousness 
is what has been repeatedly emphasized in the present 
work. All those processes which constitute our conscious- 
ness can but give effect to impulses which actuate us and 
which are not themselves conscious. But that the modifi- 
cations brought about by affective and cognitive values 
really correspond to the relations which those values bear 
in consciousness and that relation constitutes the whole 
of our intuition of freedom is a fact which is not invali- 
dated by any of the arguments upon which necessitarian 
conceptions are founded. 



CHAPTER VITI 

THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 

THE tendency and character of those forces which cause 
our actions and the phenomena of our consciousness are 
only known to us by their effects as our behaviour, and 
by their affects as our feelings. From those concrete 
and particular manifestations we may, by a process of 
inductive generalization, describe the ' character ' of 
animated beings in the same manner as we describe the 
' properties ' of inorganic substances. From the fact that 
we are pleasantly affected by certain auditory experiences, 
say, and unpleasantly by others, we are led to say that 
we like music and dislike noise in general. Our self- 
knowledge, like all our knowledge, proceeds from the 
particular to the general. And we have no other ground 
than such inductions for any general description of the 
impulses which actuate us, and which are as obscure 
to us as is the general tendency the absolute tendency, 
or * first law of motion ' of the forces which give rise 
to chemical or electrical phenomena. 

By a wider generalization all the tendencies manifested 
in behaviour appear to fall pretty obviously into two 
classes according as they have regard to the interests of 
the individual himself or to other, extra-individual, in- 
terests. The latter can be, and usually are, subsumed under 
the former. In order to act as a motive at all every value 
must be an individual value, every interest must assume 
the form at least of an individual interest. There can 
be no such thing as a purely altruistic motive ; from the 

185 



186 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

moment that any consideration should show itself as 
wholly and purely altruistic it would thereby cease to 
be a motive. It is accordingly easy to show that every 
altruistic or extra-individual motive reduces itself to a 
form of individual interest. Thus the function of pro- 
creation, the type of a racial, extra-individual impulse, 
with all the extreme individual sacrifices which it entails, 
is really governed by an individualistic interest, and may 
be regarded as an assertion of individual power, an impulse 
to perpetuate the character, the type, of the individual. 
All ethical altruism is readily explained as enlightened 
self-interest ; all other-regarding motives are reducible to 
terms of egoism, and can be shown to present themselves 
in fact as more or less direct forms of egoism in order 
to operate as individual motives. The supremest sacrifice 
must appeal in some manner to the individual that makes 
it ; he does, after all, nothing but what he likes. All 
conduct, whether on the human or on the animal plane, 
is interpretable in terms of egoism, and is constantly so 
interpreted with a logic which embarrasses refutation. 

That interpretation is painfully confirmed by our 
familiarity with the prodigies of human selfishness. We 
see men hacking their way to what they deem their 
personal advantage regardless of every other consideration, 
paving the path of their cupidity with the lives of their 
fellows. We know the appalling crudity and cruelty 
of ultimate conscious motives, and we know also something 
of the egoism that disguises itself under hypocritical 
professions and sentiments. We are easily led to conclude 
that the human world, no less than the animal world 
which is red in tooth and claw, is, to be perfectly honest, 
a manifestation of pure, savage, ruthless, cruel egoism, 
and that to pretend that it is otherwise is but an attempt 
to throw mawkish sentimental dust into our eyes. 

And yet, in spite of that seeming obviousness, a more 
fundamental consideration will, I believe, show that if 
the two orders of motive tendencies be reducible to one, 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 187 

it is not at all under the head of egoism, but under that 
of extra-individual impulses, that they are subsumable. 

An ambiguity lies at the root of the egoistic interpre- 
tation. The distinction between self-regarding and other- 
regarding impulses does not at all correspond to what we 
commonly term selfishness and altruism. It is, of course, a 
dynamic necessity that all motives whatsoever, in so far as 
they are conscious at all, should appeal to the individual in 
terms of his interests. He does what satisfies his impulses, 
and in so far acts egoistically ; and no motive which is 
effective can escape from the circle of that egoism. But 
it does not at all follow that those motivating impulses 
are therefore self-regarding in their tendency. The actual 
goal of the impulses which actuate us is, as we have 
seen, not represented in consciousness ; what is present in 
consciousness as the ' motive ' of action, the satisfaction 
sought, is something quite different from that goal. There 
is no impulse in living nature more blindly selfish than 
that of sexual love ; it is ruthless and unscrupulous, 
it operates as an egoism more self-centred than hunger. 
There is no instance in nature of more cynical callousness 
than the sadic love of the bee or the spider. And yet 
that impulse is the clearest and most direct manifestation 
of an impulse which is race-regarding, and which utterly 
subordinates the individual to the race, sets him aside 
and unflinchingly sacrifices him to the race-purpose. 
The man who sacrifices all his human ties and obligations 
in order to follow the imperious behest of an obsessing 
idea is judged a selfish man. But the impulse that 
animates him is of the most intensely extra-individual 
import. The satisfaction of the impulses of the individual 
is not by a very long way the same thing as the advantage 
of the individual. To imagine that the two are identical 
is the grossest possible misunderstanding of the most 
fundamental and elementary facts of psychology. 

That the individual acts ' selfishly ' or ' altruistically ' 
is no criterion of the self- or other-regarding nature of 



188 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

the impulse that urges him. The presented value of the 
motive in individual consciousness and the character of 
the impulse he obeys are two quite different things. We 
now know that the urge of the impulses which actuate 
living organisms is, so far as the consciousness of the 
organism is concerned, blind, and that the form of conscious 
* motive ' under which they may present themselves to 
consciousness has nothing whatever to do with the 
direction of their tendency, their teleological value. 
That an individual acts from a motive which is to him 
purely selfish is no criterion of the end and utility of the 
impulse which actuates him. His own attitude may be, 
and in most cases is, grossly and frankly egoistic, but the 
value of his selfish impulse may at the same time be purely 
that of a race-interest. The moral psychologist is fond 
of gushing sloppy sentiment on the maternal instincts of 
the hen. Does anyone seriously suppose that the hen is 
actuated by sloppy sentiments ? Does anyone, a fortiori, 
suppose that she has any conception of the * interest of 
the race ' ? She is actuated by no sentimental or theo- 
retical considerations, but by impulses that are ' blind,' 
that is to say, unpresented in consciousness except by 
instant feelings of pleasantness or unpleasantness. That 
in no way alters the fact that this blind impulse is 
indubitably related to ends in which the individual hen 
counts for nothing, and which have regard to a horizon 
of life-purposes in which her ' interests ' are irrelevant. 

Nor is the contrast one between the cruelty of selfish- 
ness, and the loving-kindness and self-sacrifice of altruism. 
As a fact the race-impulse can be, and usually is, a 
thousand times more cruel, more callous and more ruthless, 
than any individualistic egoism. What we associate with 
the heartless cruelty of nature her disregard of the 
individual is a manifestation of racial, of extra-indivi- 
dualistic impulses. There is nothing more cruel than the 
' altruism ' of extra-individual impulses. 

The crudest individual impulse of life, the ' instinct 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 189 

of self-preservation,' may, on the other hand, be quite 
opposed to the individual's interests, may be so even 
manifestly in his own consciousness and judgment. 
The man condemned beyond hope to utter misery and 
suffering, and impotent uselessness, even while clearly 
realizing his situation, clings to life, and calls himself a 
coward for so doing. 

All creative activities are pursued in general in a purely 
selfish spirit ; the artist, the creator, seeks the satisfaction 
of certain cravings for expression and perfection of pro- 
duction, sacrificing many things to that individual satis- 
faction, discarding the call of obligations. But that true 
expression and creative work should take place is not 
the interest of the individual, but of the race ; the artist's, 
the scientist's, the philosopher's stake in their work is 
as nothing compared to the stake in it of the race. All 
art is race-regarding in its nature ; it is one of the most 
essential elements and means of the education, the devel- 
opment, the evolution of the race. The share represented 
by the individual satisfaction of the artist, obtained at 
the cost of pangs and travails that seem to consume 
his very life, is as nothing beside its value to the race. 
His labour is at once as selfish and as altruistic as the 
mother's care for her offspring. 

The writings of Freud and Jung have of late popularized 
the notion that many manifestations of conative, affective, 
imaginative activity are transformed aspects of the sexual 
instinct or, as it would be more correct to say, of the 
reproductive instinct, for sexuality is only a special form 
of it. That notion was familiar enough to psychologists 
before Freud. It is a matter of easy observation that in 
many cases religious emotion, artistic, intellectual emotion 
and creative activity, are interchangeable with the mani- 
festations of the reproductive instinct. They take its 
place and it may take theirs. They are channels along 
which flow the same ultimate forces, which appear to 
assume now one form and now another. The ecstasis 



190 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of the religious mystic gives expression to reproductive 
impulses which his or her asceticism holds suppressed ; 
and in the more morbid forms of religious hysteria the 
intimate connection is revealed beyond the possibility 
of mistake. So all art, all the highest forms of pictorial 
expression, of poetry, of emotional literature, all music, 
are suffused with the eternal theme of sexual love. They 
are, like the displays of colour and song in animals, 
expressional manifestations of the same impulse which 
perpetuates the species. To the Oriental, whose vision 
is not veiled by the primness of our conventions, all our 
art and music appear at their face-value for what they 
are purely erotic. The whole affective life of man is 
coloured with the hues of those emotions which naturally 
associate themselves with the transmission of life, with 
the race-impulse in the most concrete aspect of its 
function. 

Rather than say, as we have been in the habit of saying, 
that those manifestations are disguised sublimations of 
the sexual impulse, it would be more exact to say that the 
whole range of creative manifestations, together with those 
which have more directly to do with the reproductive 
functions, are all aspects and forms of the one primary 
impulse. Artistic or mystic emotions are not ' trans- 
formed ' or ' disguised/ or ' sublimated ' concupiscence, 
but various manifestations of an impulse which is the 
common source of all. They have the common character 
that they are in their import and scope race-regarding, 
other-regarding, extra-individual, impersonal evolutionary 
impulses. In all those activities the individual is the 
instrument of the evolutionary forces of the race and 
of Life. 

The artist, the thinker, the scientist, are occupied with 
aims which concern the race more than the individual, 
which are not ephemeral and contingent, but abiding. 
They are engaged in creating the racial mind, the future 
a creative, a reproductive act in no less strict a sense than 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 191 

the bringing forth of a human organism. The artist is 
consumed with a desire to express himself ; and what is 
that act of expression but the communication to others, 
to the race, of what he accounts most valuable in his 
field of vision ? What is the goal of that impulse but 
the impregnation of the mind of humanity with his own ? 
However solitary and self-absorbed his labours, however 
isolated and insulated his thought and with the jealousy 
of a lover the true thinker ever seeks to insulate thus 
his creative act from all contamination it is to the race, 
to humanity, to the future, that, unknown though it be 
to himself, what his mind brings forth is addressed. What 
concern has he in the past or in the future of humanity, 
in its redemption, in truth, in sounding the abysses of 
universal questions ? What's Hecuba to him or he to 
Hecuba ? Those interests hold him, possess him, obsess 
him ; he enjoys the little honorary, nominal fees of joy 
in his work, pride in it, the little pleasures of vanity ; 
or suffers with equal readiness the insults of ignorance 
and stupidity, the scorns of the unworthy, the rancour 
of prejudice, and the patronage of fatuous misunderstand- 
ing. Paltry fees, and squalid martyrdoms ! Assuredly 
they are not and cannot be weighed as factors in the 
motive powers that urge him to consume the inmost 
energies of his life. A far deeper, more potent force, 
despotically impels him unknown to himself, as it impels 
the gnat to give its life in an embrace. 

No creative act, no real work at all, is in its nature 
self-regarding. Indeed, as in his creative acts, so in 
the whole of his activities, the individual is moved by 
forces which are equally unperceived by him, and which 
use him merely as their instrument to ends that extend 
far beyond his sight. Those forces, in fact, care little 
at all for the individual ; those cosmic forces treat the 
individual with utter disregard and indifference. That 
he should be impelled to ' self-preservation,' that he should 
cling to life, to the means of existence, that he should 



192 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

seek to extend his powers and assert himself in his genera- 
tion, are necessary conditions of his acting at all. But 
never does he find it possible to live by that bread alone ; 
the values of life bear the hues of aims which extend 
out of the sight of the individual. Confine him within 
the circle of that self-preservation, and he inevitably 
pines, mortally suffocated. Feed him, warm him, shelter 
him, ' preserve ' him, furnish him with all the necessaries 
of individual life, and he will go mad or commit suicide. 
Creation, were it but the crude reproduction of his own 
kind, becomes, in the absence of any other manifestation 
of the life-force, the centre of all life's values. To those 
creative ends, to those evolutionary ends, are his self- 
preservation, his clingings to every straw of life, subsidiary 
and subservient. And when the powers of racial use and 
import are exhausted, when he has ceased to be in mind 
and spirit creative, even the self-preservative life-instinct 
as a rule vanishes or becomes enfeebled ; his clinging 
grasp relaxes, and he is ready to take his departure. 

It is, when properly considered, a rather preposterous 
notion that those forces which act through the individual, 
of whose real import and end he is totally unconscious, 
whose origin lies in a remote and long regression of 
evolutionary development, are in the least concerned 
with the individual, are in any respect individual-regarding. 
Such a conception appears, when we come to face fairly 
its prodigious impertinence, as the anti-climax of anthropo- 
centrism. 

Those diversified impulses that make up our ' being ' 
are the stratified accumulation of the concrete forms 
assumed by the primal tendencies of life under the 
operation of affective and cognitive experience. Not one 
of those forms is itself innate and original ; all are 
necessarily developed in reaction to feeling and cognition ; 
all are necessarily ' acquired.' Without affective and 
cognitive experience no concrete appetence, no specific 
impulse, can arise at all. Hunger, for instance, is beyond 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 198 

dispute not primary ; it is a special developed instinct 
of plasmophagous animality ; it is unknown to the quietly 
and continuously breathing and light-absorbing plant- 
life out of which animality became differentiated. Love 
is no less an acquired instinct ; sexuality is not primary, 
but a developed adaptation, a division of labour. The 
breath itself, the spirit, is not primal ; there are organic 
forms which do not breathe oxygen saprophytic bacteria, 
yeasts, that contrive to metabolize by way of fermentative 
processes and dispense quite well with air. Not one 
impulse of life can be discerned to be primary, innate, 
original, and inseparable from the attributes of life. 

The distinction between self-regarding and other- 
regarding impulses does not appear to exist at the origin 
of life. In plant-life structural provisions and reactions 
for self-preservation would seem, with a few rare excep- 
tions, as in sensitive plants, to be entirely absent. The 
plant does not protect itself, shows no defensive instincts, 
evinces, so far as structural provisions and behaviour 
indicate, no objection to dying. Its structural reactions, 
its organic cunning, are, on the contrary, wholly directed 
towards reproduction ; individual-regarding provisions 
and impulses would not appear to exist in the original 
disposition of life. Extra-individual impulses have not 
been, it would seem, evolved by a process of sublime 
sentiment from a fund of original egoism, but on the 
contrary, they are the dominant, original impulses of life ; 
and it is self-preservation, the individualistic impulse, 
which has been derived out of them. Self-preservation, 
like hunger, is probably a special invention and attribute, 
a sort of perverted instinct, of predatory, cannibalistic, 
combative animality. The instinct of self-defence has 
arisen as a correlative of the instinct of attack. 

Whatever the nature of that tendency which constitutes 
the quality of the impulses of life, it is clear that it is 
not concerned chiefly with the individual. The problems 
of behaviour present themselves to us accordingly under 

13 



194 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

a new aspect. For individualistic philosophy the problem 
was, ' How can extra-individual motives arise out of 
individual motives ? ' For us the problem is rather, 
' How can individual motives arise out of extra-individual 
motives ? What is the nature of egoism in an organism 
which is entirely ruled by impersonal forces that care 
nothing for the individual ? ' 

There are certain types of behaviour, thrust prominently 
upon our notice in the present phase of human development 
and social order, to which we refer by the woids ' selfish- 
ness,' ' egoism.' In order to understand those types of 
behaviour we must regard them in a somewhat different 
light from that in which we are accustomed to view them. 
Egoistic behaviour is not merely behaviour resulting from 
motives of self-interest, for all motives, in order to act 
at all, must appeal to individual interest ; that is the 
condition of their operation. It is not merely behaviour 
characterized by callousness, cruelty, defect of sympathy ; 
some of the most purely extra-individual impulses exceed 
all others in cynical cruelty, in the complete absence of 
the feeling of sympathy. The behaviour which we call 
selfish and egoistic is certainly not characterized, or 
psychologically explained, by those descriptions. It is 
a pathological condition consisting in a particular atrophy 
and degeneration associated with otherwise advanced 
conditions of development. 

The crudity of egoism which we lament, and which is 
sometimes ascribed to ' human nature,' is the product of 
certain conditions, namely, the structure and mode of 
evolution of our social order, on which is imposed strife, 
conflict, as a supreme law. A consuming disease is thereby 
engendered panic fear, which is the ruling emotion in 
all competitive conditions. In the social psychology 
thus created by the organization of terrorism, the de- 
fensive, self-preservative instincts are naturally, as in 
hunted beasts, stimulated to the utmost and suffer from 
a chronic pathological hypertrophy. We are sometimes 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 195 

naively surprised to discover that the self-making man 
who coldly employs himself in crushing human lives on 
a large scale and despoiling widows and orphans is, in 
his family circle, the mildest and tenderest of men, acutely 
affectionate and sensitive. Naturally ; it is the social 
order alone which evokes the pathological reaction of the 
self-preservative instincts not ' human nature.' The 
general result of that hypertrophy is that all other 
tendencies and affections are stunted, starved, atrophied. 
When he has secured himself and satisfied his animal 
instincts, the victim of panic has no interests in this life, 
and his tastes and satisfactions are those of a Hottentot 
or a baboon. It is that atrophy which manifests itself 
in the baseness, the vulgarity, the sottishness of the 
mentality associated with our commercialism. It is 
worse than wicked, it is vulgar. It produces not so much 
indignation as disgust. The likes and dislikes of the 
competitive animal are bestial. 

Self-preservative egoism is developed, like every instinct 
in life, in response to the need for it ; the greater the 
danger of attack, the greater the operation of self-defence, 
of self-preservation. And the result is the amputation 
by the stress of fear of all the higher forms of conation, 
and the reduction of the individual and of the race to a 
state of evolutionary destitution in which they are left 
shrivelled and withered down to the basis of the crudest 
and basest forms of instinct. Fear, self-preservation, 
self-defence, are negative instincts whose function is mere 
escape and avoidance ; they can never accomplish, achieve, 
create anything, they can never give rise to any develop- 
ment, any evolution. It is not the hypertrophy of self- 
preservation, but the consequent atrophy of developmental 
forces, which constitutes the baseness of egoism. 

We come here upon a distinction of the most momentous 
import. We use, and must continue to use, the words 
' base/ ' noble,' ' lower,' ' higher,' in reference to various 
forms and manifestations of the conative impulses of 



196 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

life. That is to say, we assign values to the principles 
of valuation themselves, evaluate them as determinants 
of ' higher ' or ' lower ' orders of value. On what ground 
do we do so ? What justification have we for stigmatizing 
the pleasures of the swine and exalting those of the hero 
or the thinker ? Are they not all equally manifestations 
of life's conative impulse ? 

On that question we must not allow ourselves to be 
put off with vague justifications. It is upon it that the 
validity of our evaluations must rest. 

It is, I trust, clear that within the human organism 
in its psychological aspect are included in a wide series 
of evolutionary stratifications diverse forms of particular- 
ized impulses which reach back through the whole regress 
of human ancestry to the primordial reactions of the 
first protists, and represent in the dispositions of the 
human individual the entire psychological evolution that 
has led up to it. Psychological evolution, that is, the 
unfolding of the conative impulses of life, tentatively 
feeling their way to more approximate realizations of 
their tendencies, is exactly similar in the outline of its 
course to organic evolution. Schematically mapped out, 
that course assumes the form of a branching genealogical 
tree. Some of the branches diverge from near the roots 
into a line of limited success to which they remain com- 
mitted ; many thousands of various lines branch off at 
different levels, representing specialized forms of activity 
which confine the conative forces within a determined 
channel and exclude them from any other form of ex- 
pression. One great branch, that of the articulates, 
represents what seemed the great achievement of an 
efficient method, the fixation by successive elaborations 
and accumulations of its minutest details in rigid 
hereditary structure of instinctive behaviour. The main 
trunk is composed of the more indefinite, unstable, and 
labile types which are constantly inveigled into side-lines 
of specialization, while the remnant goes on unsettled, 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 197 

open to new opportunities and routes towards a truer 
expression, and finds in humanity a new outlet of 
enormously diversified choice and variability. The results 
of human evolution itself are not structurally fixed at 
all, they are not inheritable, but precariously transmitted 
by the social organism. So that the human individual, 
left to himself, remains a mere brute, on the level of the 
crudest animality out of which mankind has arisen. 
For the human stage of evolution he is entirely dependent 
on social heredity ; it may leave him in the palaeolithic 
phase of human evolution or raise him to the level of 
the highest attained development. 

Now it is a fact that where, in the individual conscious- 
ness, various forms belonging to different strata of psycho- 
logical evolution exist side by side, their relation in the 
evolutionary scale is immediately felt in consciousness. 
The older, more primitive and rudimentary organic 
impulses pertaining to ancient and simple stages of 
psychological development, fixed mostly as physiological 
needs or wild instincts, are directly known as lower. 
Where in the same consciousness there exist more recent, 
freer, more highly developed needs, desires, appetences, 
these, whether prepotent or no, will infallibly be recognized 
as of higher value than the lower. 

That intuition is not some mystic and mysterious 
sense. It is the natural and inevitable result of the 
operation of the conative impulses of life. If we have 
succeeded in conceiving that impulse as perpetually 
tending towards expression in a determined direction, 
it follows that the affective values expressed in conscious- 
ness which are most advanced in the direction towards 
which it is tending are more complete expressions of it 
than those corresponding to its more rudimentary and 
primitive expressions. The satisfaction of the impulse 
of life in its later achievements in self-development 
may not be more ' massive ' than that derived from 
the more primitive forms of its needs the latter are 



108 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

more firmly established and perfected in function and 
feeling but it is necessarily of higher quality. And that 
quality, that value is directly recognized as higher where 
it is felt at all. 

There are natural values. So enormous a proportion 
of our values are manifest and transparent forgeries, 
traditional fabrications arising out of the power-relations 
of the social order, that we have in general grown dis- 
trustful of the validity of all values. That is the penalty 
of our ancestral dishonesties, the Nemesis of human lies. 
But those forged values could not have arisen at all had 
there been no sterling currency ; there are originals to 
those forgeries. The whole activity of life consists in 
reaction to the affective values determined by its cona- 
tive disposition ; and among those values themselves there 
exist relations, a respective value of values, a hierarchical 
order of evolutionary rank, which is intuitively known 
albeit frequently confounded with, and obscured by, 
traditional pseudo-values. ' Higher ' means the closer 
approximation of the conative tendency that determines 
all activities to its intrinsic goal. 

The word ' conscience ' in its old acceptation, has, 
together with all its aliases, ' moral sense/ ' innate 
intuition,' ' categorical imperative,' dropped to all intents 
and purposes out of our vocabularies. We no longer 
believe in any innate, arbitrary and absolute foundation 
and final dogmatic appeal of ethics. Morality, it has 
become unmistakably clear, is a social product, frequently 
a social convention, frequently a fabricated social lie. 
When our ' conscience ' prompts adherence, deference to 
that convention, the instinct, the ' still small voice,' is 
no other than our ' fear of public opinion,' our lapping 
up of current shibboleths and consecrated judgments. 
It is not noble and divine, but essentially ignoble and 
ovine. It pertains to the instinct cowardice. The 
concept of ' conscience ' is now wholly discredited and 
obsolete. 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 199 

Nevertheless I do not fear to affirm that there exists 
a real and momentous fact, which, if not strictly identical 
with the ancient concept, is at any rate analogous. Not 
certainly a ' moral sense,' an instinctive intuition of 
ethics, but in a considerably wider sense an innate evalua- 
tion of all values. 

The relations which we term ethical arise out of the 
peculiar condition of human development which, depending 
entirely on that of the social aggregate, require as a 
condition of that development the mutual adjustment of 
the elements of that aggregate; and it is that essential 
adjustment, which cannot be carried out here by organic 
equilibrium, which is the all-important object of ethical 
growth. But that ethical adjustment is but a part of 
the process of development of the powers of life, and 
exists only as a means towards it. Hence the ethical 
aspect, as it is currently understood, namely, as concerned 
with human relations, is but a limited, partial and sub- 
sidiary aspect of the aims which represent the ever widening 
goals towards which the forces of life tend and aspire. 

Wherever various orders of values stand side by side 
in consciousness, the higher by the side of the lower, 
that relative order is recognized and directly known, 
whether admittedly or no. And that sense of value, 
however confused by traditional pseudo-values, is not 
to be wholly accounted for by reference to those, for it 
most potently and clearly asserts itself when operating 
in utter defiance of convention and tradition, of ' public 
opinion,' of established norms. It is most conspicuous 
for then it is the most genuine and direct expression of 
conation towards higher levels of realization when 
isolated, obstructed, decried and defiant. By virtue 
of that natural sense of value it is that we appeal to 
our own approval as to the highest, most valid and 
competent court. 

The highest that is in us is recognized, known, as highest, 
however faintly felt, to whatever order that ' highest ' may 



200 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

appertain. The Christian who is debarred by his educa- 
tional misfortune from seeing beyond the thick veil of 
traditional spiritual values, of traditional ' truth,' yet can- 
not but strongly feel, and justly, the enormous superiority, 
the transcendent worth, of those spiritual values above the 
coarseness, crudity, bestiality, ' materialism/ of the world 
about him, of the lower values he knows. Hence his 
' conscience ' adds the full might of its judgment to the 
already titanic force of established values with which 
he has been endowed by his educational growth, to the 
' cloud of witnesses/ and confirms them into an immovable 
rock of faith. The force of natural values confirms that 
of artificial ones, pronounces them to be immeasurably 
the highest that he knows. All higher values, which he 
only knows by hearsay, are confounded by him, and 
assimilated with, that crudeness and ' materialism ' to 
which his conscience infallibly declares him to be superior. 

The highest that is felt is confidently known as highest. 
Hence, as we have noted, satisfaction within the sphere 
of the base can only arise from atrophic development, from 
absence of the higher forms of conation. Our vulgarity 
is not a development of baseness, but a deficiency of 
higher development. Every form of degradation is the 
conversion of means into an end in itself, a limitation ; 
every means tends to become an end and to bar the way 
to further outlook in the absence of evolutionary activity. 
Physical force, money, food, talent, scholarship, self- 
preservation, ' morality/ become ends in themselves, and 
development is thereupon arrested. 

The pervasive and multiform animal instinct which is 
in some of its partial aspects described as ' self-regarding 
sentiment ' is, I consider, much more fundamental ; it is 
a feeling of evolutionary values. Protean in the multi- 
plicity of its forms and manifestations, it is like all other 
impulses, subject to aberrations and degradations, and 
to developmental sublimations. The strutting of all males 
before females, their display of themselves, their out- 



THE PRIMARY CONATIVE TENDENCY 201 

spreading of feathers and colours, their songs and gurgles, 
and comical love-dances and parades, are, on the face 
of them, immediately related to the reproductive race- 
function, that is, to the most obviously extra-individualistic 
impersonal impulse. They are in that aspect the very 
reverse of self-regarding. Yet they are at the same time 
the type of self-regard, of vanity, of exaltation of self, 
self-admiration and desire for admiration. What is here 
admired, what is held up as an object of complacency 
and admiration for others, for the females especially as 
instruments of propagation and perpetuation, is not 
' self ' at all, the ' ego,' the ' subject ' of metaphysics. 
Does anyone mean to tell me that a stickleback or a turkey 
has any concern for his metaphysical ' ego ' ? The object of 
admiration, of vanity, is the achievement of the life-impulse, 
the perfection with which it has realized itself, attained 
to expression in the individual. The individual displays 
his strength, his agility, his talents, his accomplishments, 
his beauty ; he does not display his weakness, his foibles, 
his cowardice, his ugliness ; he hides those. He does not 
display his self, he displays as admirable what he regards 
as most exalted in his composition, carefully putting 
out of sight and forgetting those ingredients which have 
base values. His struttings are an aesthetic judgment of 
values, a declaration of faith in what he considers to be 
admirable. And all our aesthetics, our poetic, musical, 
pictorial arts, are, as is commonly recognized, derivative 
transformations of male love-struttings and displays. 
(Compare the general inaptitude of women for creative 
art. The creatively artistic woman is an abnormality, 
subject to ovarian abnormalities. Sappho, the archetype 
of the woman artist, suffered from perverted sexuality. 
On the other hand, woman is the great appreciator and 
enjoyer of art, if not a judge and a critic of it.) 

Vanity, conceit, pride, the wooing of public admiration, 
are exaltations not of self, but of those aspects of self 
which individuals at various stages of evolution regard 



202 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

as the most admirable in themselves, the highest. They 
display for public admiration those qualities to which 
their outlook, whether limited or developed, ascribes the 
highest values. Those qualities may be precisely those 
which they themselves possess in the smallest degree, 
which they not so much possess as would like to possess ; 
they boast of that which they have not. The coward 
makes a display of courage, the ugly man of beauty, 
the weak of power. ' Hypocrisy is an homage which vice 
pays to virtue.' 

All ' sentiment of self/ self-admiration, ostentation, 
implies a scale of valuations, a differentiation of the 
qualities and aspects which are held up to the admiration 
of self and others. ' Those values,' it may be objected, 
' are social products we pride ourselves on what others 
admire, envy in us ; the female selects the male ; ostenta- 
tion courts public opinion.' Is not that a vicious circle ? 
What determines the selection of the female, of public 
opinion, of others ? The approval of others is courted 
when that is regarded as the highest judgment ; it is 
courted by the mediocre individual who is evolutionally 
not even up to the average level ; that is why most vanity 
and ostentation are base and vulgar. The higher indivi- 
dual, he who has developed, carried in himself the evolu- 
tionary development higher, does not court public opinion, 
but, on the contrary, defies it, scorns it, offends it. He 
opposes to it his valuations, and abides securely by that 
judgment. He seeks, on the contrary, to impose his 
valuations on public opinion, to impose ' his personality.' 
' His personality ? ' It is, of course, no more his personality 
than that which the vulgar ostentator seeks to display, 
it is his highest values, the highest point of evolution 
reached by aspiring life within himself. He no more 
desires to display or impose his weaknesses, his lower 
values, than does the turkey. 



CHAPTER IX 

CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 

THE ' human faculty,' suggestive in its portentous powers 
of a miraculous origin, rests upon a very definite 
fact the symbolism of the word. Language is not, 
as was at one time supposed, the device invented 
by a transcendent intellect to achieve self-utterance ; 
it is the source whence that intellect itself has sprung 
into being. Word-symbolism created the human faculty. 
When once, out of cries, calls, and signals, the trick of 
naming was caught up, no limit could stay the course 
of abstraction, the coining of things, the acts and qualities 
of things, the qualities of those qualities, into words 
permanently fixed concepts. From the naming of the 
trivial objects of its daily needs the human mind went 
on to ' universals ' and lists of the ' categories.' There 
was nothing to arrest its career of predication and compari- 
son, of analysis and synthesis. The system of symbols, 
accumulated and refined in acuteness by the interaction 
of human minds, became not only a system of signals 
between them, the means of communication, of education, 
of psychological transmission ; it also became the means 
of thought, the organ of human psychosis. Man's soul 
became symbolic. The word became man. 

We think in words. Thought, the peculiar medium 
of human psychism, constitutes the great bulk of our 
focal consciousness, of what we term ' our mind.' That 
consciousness is to an overwhelming degree cognitive ; 
hence the identification by introspective psychology of 



203 



204 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

mind, of soul, with thought the res cogitans ; the 
intellectual, cognitive, epistemological conception of 
mind. 

But cognition, we have more than once noted, does 
much more than afford the means of effectively serving 
the conative impulses of the organism ; it reacts upon 
those impulses themselves and transforms them. Under 
its action the primordial, undetermined psychic forces, 
conations, affections, take on new shapes, tend to new 
objectives, assume new values, are directed to new fields 
of action, to new horizons of desire. Only thus can those 
forces come into purposive operation ; their development 
is thus determined by that of cognition. 

Hence not only has the word, by its analytic algebra, 
created a new cognitive organ, the intellect, and brought 
forth the marvels of its power ; it has no less amazingly 
called new purposes and new emotions into being ; it 
has opened a new world of aims and values. The animal 
whom the word had quickened began to shake and startle 
the world with the strange sounds of laughter and of 
tears. His purposes and values, his looking before and 
after, flew in their oscillations beyond the organic orbit 
of his daily needs until, by an appalling aberration, they 
swung beyond life itself, into eternity. Human desires, 
the things we live by, the things we live and die for, are 
no less than thought itself the offspring of the word. 
Armed with his symbolism, the thinking animal has become 
a moral animal, a religious animal, an artistic animal. 
Not the cognitive instrument alone is the product of the 
word. The word has created the very soul ctf man. 

But there is another side to the picture. Against the 
prodigies of thought are to be set no less colossal miseries 
and handicaps ; against its triumphs its disasters. That 
symbolism has been the source of all human marvels 
but it is a symbolism. Its whole structure, and conse- 
quently that of the thought and the mentality that is the 
outcome of it, is artificial, factitious. In proportion to 



CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 205 

its very perfection, to its power of abstract symbolization, 
it of necessity drifts more and more out of touch with that 
which it symbolizes, acquires a weird, unnatural self- 
existence apart from it. The word-fashioned concept, 
the Platonic ' Idea,' becomes a sort of entity endowed 
with an unnatural phantasmal life. In the dumb animal 
life and its cognitive exploration are miserably limited. 
But by that very limitation they are anchored to 
reality. The higher animals are capable of thought, and 
their thought is, like ours, symbolic ; but the symbols 
with them are the actual sensory signs of cognition. The 
purposes and values that grow out of that cognition spring 
directly from primordial conations. With word-symbolism 
man has become the master of a wonder-working machine ; 
but, as with every machine, its master has also become 
its slave. He has become overwhelmed by his own power. 
Thought is limed in the glue of words, and strives 
in vain to rise. It is compelled more and more to dwell 
in that symbolic world upon which it depends. Leaving 
the depths, the realities of psychic life behind, it is drawn 
to the iridescent film that plays upon the surface ; it 
comes to be a stranger to reality and shrinks when con- 
fronted with it as before something exotic and strange, 
as if it had seen a ghost The word-symbol tends to 
displace, to be mistaken for, and handled Li lieu 
of, the idea, the experience for which it ostensibly 
stands. The magic power of creating substantive con- 
cepts, multiplied by the word, betrays by its fatal 
facility. Words can be struck without check from 
the multiplying-press, like treasury notes, and are no 
longer under the necessity of representing bullion in 
the bank of reality. They may even be forged, fabricated ; 
a false currency may be thrown into circulation, which 
even experts may find it difficult to distinguish from the 
legitimate tender of thought. How many of the ideas, 
of the thoughts within you, cling to the values which they 
professedly connote ? How many are demonstrable fabri- 



206 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

cations, the history of which, where and when they were 
coined, is even historically traceable ? 

Out of that artificial life of word-thought, conceptual 
thought, out of that ' realism ' in the scholastic sense 
strange antinomies have come about. By virtue of that 
power, man, the discoverer of truth, has become also 
the inventor of lies. Homo sapiens, the rational animal, 
is of all animals the only one that possesses the faculty 
of being inordinately, fantastically, deliriously irrational. 
He is so habitually, systematically, of set purpose. The 
dumb world, were it not itself unrational, would behold 
him with amazement commercing with phantasms, seeing 
things, gravely gibbering to himself, cogitating phantas- 
magorias, haranguing the void, orating to the east-wind, 
struck with unaccountable lunacies, stung to homicidal 
manias by hidden ecstasies, and so ardently dealing with 
his chimeras as to be entirely insensible to the realities 
about him. Did ever any sensible dumb animal woo life 
with such mummeries ? His thought weighs the stars, 
and he lives enchanted in a world of hallucinations. He 
is the master of thought and the fool of the universe. 

The faculty of man has not only become the supreme 
instrument of adaptation, of evolutionary development, 
but also the means of inadaptation, of degradation, of 
degeneration. Man is the moral animal ; he is the creator 
of the ideals, he is the saint, the martyr, the hero. Yet 
he is also the basest of all animals He lays down his 
life for an ideal, and he cheats a child. 

The dependence of the human mind upon word-sym- 
bolism carries with it the most extraordinary biological 
consequence. That psychical apparatus is physiologically 
intransmissible. For its handing down from one generation 
to another none of the physiological devices elaborated 
by organic evolution are available ; for through organic 
continuity no cognition can be transmitted. The trans- 
mission of human cognition can only take place by the 
operation of the social aggregate. It is the latter which 



CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 207 

supplies to every individual mind its word-consciousness. 
The soul of man, in so far as it is human at all, is a social 
product. His actuating impulses, the palimpsest of his 
instincts, his organism and sense-organs, derive from the 
multifarious parentage of his organic ancestry. His 
' humanity ' is entirely derived from the collective social 
environment, not by way of descent, but directly from 
the actual phase of social growth into which he is born. 
That human consciousness enters his being mainly by 
means of words, which carry with them all the developments, 
and all the diseases, anomalies, and falsifications of human 
word-thought. That word-consciousness post-natally im- 
planted into each individual is superposed on all the 
products of pre-human psychological evolution, and 
becomes his focal consciousness, his thinking soul. 

It is a strange situation. ' Humanity,' the social 
environment, the ' Spirit of the times ' the Hegelian 
Zeitgeist are mere abstractions. We are in the habit 
of discounting the expressions as somewhat loose meta- 
phors, personifications of concepts which have only a 
theoretical existence. They connote merely the aggregate, 
the resultant, the sum-total of constituent human units. 
There are no such things, you will be told; there are only 
men. And yet, as a fact, no individual human conscious- 
ness exists at all except as the product of that 
aggregate, of that 'abstraction.' The whole of human 
consciousness, not its word-language alone, but all the 
consequences of it, its concepts, its values, its senti- 
ments, ideas and ideals, are imparted to each individual, 
who but for that artificial animation would be but a 
dumb ape, by that aggregate, that ' abstraction ' which is 
itself made up of traditionally, socially manufactured 
souls. 

It is by that transmission that the individual can 
become the 'heir of all the ages,' and that human evolution 
is possible. But here also those great advantages are 
set off by no less colossal disadvantages. Not only are 



208 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

the achievements of the race transmissible to the individual, 
but so also are the diseases which in the social organism 
word-thought has accumulated. The basis of fact for 
the current prejudice against the intermarriage of kindred 
is that family taints and morbid tendencies are thereby 
summated and intensified. Precisely the same thing takes 
place in the social transmission of the human mind. Every 
accident and disease of thought is accumulated in that 
heredity no less, far more surely indeed, than are its 
conquests and achievements. That socially transmitted 
mind-stuff does not at all represent the actual experience 
and cognition of the race, the accumulated achievement 
of its effort to know its psychic development, its supreme 
conquests. What is transmitted to, and bestowed upon, 
the individual is something entirely different. It is not 
the psychological product of the intrinsic powers and 
constitution of the human mind, but that of the constitution 
of the social organism that transmits it. 

The social organism so we must call it, since it exercises 
the most important function of an organism, that of 
procreation is yet no physiologically adjusted organism ; 
no automatic equilibrium has taken place within it. It 
is one of the fictions of all our ' history,' which has 
become embodied in our terminology and language e.g., 
in the very words ' society/ ' social/ ' constitution ' that 
the human race has become ' organized/ has 'organized ' 
itself ; implying a purposive, deliberate, collective effort 
to contrive, dispose, and settle human relations in 
a practical manner, with a view to the best attainable 
result and efficiency, under the guidance of a will to truth. 
Nothing of the sort has ever taken place. Mankind has 
not organized itself or become organized. The ' social 
organism ' has been constituted by the self-establishment 
of dominating and predatory individual powers, which have 
subjugated the bulk of the race. That is the only sort 
of ' organization ' that has ever taken place in the ' social 
organism ' tyranny tempered by revolt. Consequently 



CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 209 

the mental inheritance transmitted to the individual is 
that transmitted by those established powers, and is not 
the psychological product of the ' human faculty ' or 
' human nature,' but of those transmitting powers. It is 
not the product of cognitive impulses at all ; and cannot 
be psychologically regarded as representing cognition or 
experience. The impulses and interests under the urge 
of which it has been produced have not been those which 
throughout the development of life bring about cognition 
as a utilitarian function, but altogether different impulses 
and interests, those, namely, that have for their object 
the maintenance of power and domination, instincts of 
self-preservation. They have not been produced by will 
to truth, but by will to falsehood. 

Hence the socially transmitted material of human 
consciousness is a profoundly falsified material consisting 
of pseudo-concepts, pseudo-distinctions, pseudo-values 
Every human mind born into the world receives that 
falsified mentality from the social environment, is educated 
by it, and provided with falsified metaphysics, falsified 
psychology, falsified history, falsified ethics. By a subtle 
and crowning falsification the process by which the human 
mind is thus deformed is successfully concealed and 
disguised by laying the blame for the resulting anarchy 
and confusion on the human mind itself, on * human 
nature,' on 'the fallibility of human reason.' The intrinsic 
constitution of man is made the scapegoat for the psycho- 
logical effects of the constitution of the social organism. 
That is, of course, an utter misrepresentation. Those 
deformities, those imbecilities, those absurdities and 
perversities, are not the product of * human nature ' at 
all, but of the predatory social organism that transmits 
them. They are handed down from generation to genera- 
tion in the human mind, by its social heredity, not by its 
psychic or physiological heredity. 

A new psychological fixation, similar in its result, though 
different in its operation, from that produced by instinct 

14 



210 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

in insects, is brought about by the social transmission of 
' custom/ ' tradition,' ' authority,' and their falsification 
in the interests of power. And the same contest is renewed 
between the arresting, stabilizing forces of feeling here 
represented by the ' values ' of power interests and the 
labile and developmental forces of cognition, between the 
fixed and transmitted values of artificial aesthetic reaction, 
and the values of the individual freedom of noetic reaction 
' judging for itself.' Human evolution has taken place 
by the operation of the latter in spite of the gigantic 
handicap. But in bringing about that evolution those 
cognitive powers, universally decried and denounced as 
being opposed to ' right feeling ' and congenitally imbecile, 
have operated in a curiously indirect manner. They have 
never operated directly, with purposive evolutionary ends 
in view, constructively, but by criticism, destructively ; 
by sapping and invalidating those falsifications upon 
which dominating powers are founded. Here as elsewhere 
the forces of development have proceeded unconsciously, 
the purposes of Life have been carried out ' blindly ' ; 
even though its instrument has been the most highly 
developed form of conscious power and purpose, of 
directed thought. 

The most striking manifestation of that process is 
presented by that aspect of human development which is 
known as the moral aspect. It is, as we have seen, the 
process of adaptation of the individual to the social 
organism, and as such is one of the chief tasks with 
which the forces of life are concerned in human develop- 
ment. That ethical aspect has occupied an enormous 
place in human thought, which is replete with moral 
values, and ethical ideas, which has constructed ethical 
systems, and been fired with ethical enthusiasms. But all 
that ethical thought has been virtually of no account as 
a factor in the actual process of ethical development. And, 
strangest fact of all, what measure of influence it has 
exercised over the development has been directed against 



CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 211 

it. Ethical evolution has taken place apart from ethical 
thought, by opposition to domination, by the gradual 
destruction of the falsifications of power-thought, by critical 
thought undirected to any ethical ends. It has taken 
place, not through the advocates of 'goodness,' but through 
the advocates of ' wickedness ' ; not through the saint, 
but through the rebel. 

The human mind, which in all its peculiarly human 
elements is a social product, is thus superposed upon 
the vital foundation of natural impulses and values, as 
an artificial superstructure raised tier upon tier by the 
symbolism of language, by the social transmission and 
transformation of all concepts and values above the 
realities of existence. The human focal consciousness, 
the most sharply defined form of consciousness, is thus 
at the same time that from which the motive forces 
of life are most darkly hidden, in which they are most 
unconscious. Hence that profound impression of * arti- 
ficiality,' of unreality, which life makes upon us. 

Our whole daily procedure is ruled by super-physio- 
logical, by superorganic instincts more blindly fixed 
in dead mechanism than the structural psychological 
stereotype of the insect. We rise at the call of a customary 
time-table, dress and breakfast at the behest of the clock, 
the cog-wheels of which have become our masters and 
the regulators of our organic appetites. We attend to 
our avocations, the common round, the daily task. Our 
work is performed according to the set rules of the game ; 
our intercourse with our fellows, formal or intimate, 
follows specified customary formulas and conventions. 
We make love according to book. Our pleasures and 
recreations are no less than our ' duties ' confined within 
the frame of current prescriptions. Our life-work, be it 
the most mechanical drudgery or the most skilled brain- 
labour, is the observance of set rules. In our most creative 
work itself ' public opinion,' the critics, the conventional 
formulas, are ever at our elbow ; could we wholly forget 



212 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

and disregard them, we should become unintelligible. At 
the climacterics and cross-roads of our lives we decide 
our fate with the same narcotic conformity as we choose 
the colour of our neck-gear. Do we not, when perplexed, 
even seek advice so as to ensure ourselves against any 
danger of originality ? 

On how many occasions have the psychical forces within 
us, the daring appetites, the infinite possibilities of the 
life-force, the honesties of thought, the royal ideo-motor 
powers of control, been thoroughly aroused and on their 
mettle ? How often have we been really wide awake ? 
we, the fundamental forces and powers in our being ? 
How often have they been called upon to act, to manifest 
themselves, moved to decide in accordance with what we 
know, what we actually believe ? How often has our soul 
been creative ? 

The nature of ' genius ' is debated in unlearned societies 
with considerable drollery. In the midst of a world 
fettered in the toils of transmitted thought, custom, 
tradition, and orthodox values, there appears a man that 
spontaneously thinks and acts, that is in mind and action 
creative. He is gaped at with hostile indignation mostly, 
and, mayhap, hoisted after his death upon an altar and 
canonically pronounced to belong to the species ' genius.' 
His valet, however, that is, your valet-minded friend, 
will tell you that he knew Mr. Hero-Genius quite well, 
and that he was a person much like any other, who really 
ate and smoked like you and I ; a person, if the truth 
be told, somewhat disappointing, of poor and at times 
incoherent conversation, decidedly rude and mannerless, 
and in much of life's commerce singularly helpless ; a 
person with vices too ; on the whole a much overrated 
person. 

Nothing is more rejoicing than our current gibberings, 
and even our profoundest pronouncements, concerning 
genius. Ask what a man of genius is, and you will be 
told that he is a superior kind of man, a great man, a 



CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 213 

sort of superman, as it were. Or more humorously still 
you will be informed in tones of subtle penetration that 
' genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.' Sir 
Francis Galton even more strangely bestows upon the 
world a treatise, accounted a classic, imparting the sur- 
prising information that genius is ' hereditary/ and dis- 
closing the fact that the Pitts and the Scaligers were 
geniuses ; and that, in short, Sir Francis has not the 
remotest notion of the meaning of the word ' genius ' 
beyond what he has gathered from Johnson's Dictionary. 

Talent, ability, capacity for taking pains, belong to 
a psychological rubric only remotely and incidentally 
connected with the rubric Genius. In order to have 
genius you must have originality. Originality that is, 
not the mere freakishness of intentionally whimsicality, 
but the breaking away of your soul from the bonds of 
custom-thought and falsified power-thought, and the 
achievement of its freedom. The play of human power 
in liberty from that bondage is what in art, in science, 
in literature, in politics, in practical engineering, in thought, 
in conduct, constitutes the quality of genius. If to that 
quality you have also superadded talent, ability, then 
you have the realization of genius. 

There are of necessity under the life of standardized 
thought and behaviour, dark, simmering depths. Beneath 
the routine of a well-behaved, conforming life a score 
of ' we's,' as unlike that * faultlessly ' dressed diner and 
his table manners as a corroboreeing black-fellow, lie 
draped, suppressed, and partly asphyxiated. We flick the 
ash of our cigarette and keep up the conversation over 
our coffee, apparently respectable enough and safe 
personages. But under that unexceptional attitude and 
manner there stirs somewhere a roaring wild beast, a 
howling naked savage, an Eliogabalus ; and likewise too, 
maybe, a hero, a martyr, an unbrowbeaten thinker, a 
perished artist, as shy of issuing out of their darkness, 
their conventional cell, as the brute and the troglodyte. 



214 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

Yet they are there, primal appetites, immense aspirations 
and all, really and actually alive in us. 

What in that orderly life of routine becomes of them, 
the unacknowledged, unknown doubles that shadow the 
well-behaved, law-abiding, opinion-abiding citizen ? 

They may on occasion burst forth with terrible, astonish- 
ing effect ; the platitudinarian gentleman may actually 
be revealed to us transformed into a raving, wallowing, 
brute-beast. Or he may become transfigured into a 
sublime hero. That happens on occasions on the whole 
exceptional. On occasions not exceptional they never- 
theless do express themselves, find some vent of expression 
for themselves in some manner or other. 

They express themselves in the first place by pro- 
nouncing the routine of life a terrible boredom, by making 
us feel their unutterable tedium. They will at times 
drive us to go to sea, to the South Pole, to Western Uganda, 
to Northern Thibet, * in search of adventure.' If war 
breaks out we pronounce it an appalling calamity, and 
assume our most solemn countenance, but the savage and 
the hero within us are up and rejoicing ; they have their 
opportunity, they will obtain their freedom. Our bored, 
enchained savages crave for ' excitement. ' Our fascinating 
Lady Frippery is everything that she should be ; but she 
must at all cost have excitement. That is what the bored, 
virtuous savage calls for from the depths. 

It is in those activities that are farthest removed and 
most immune from the influence of the social strife and 
its falsifications, in non-utilitarian, useless activities, in 
our amusements, pleasures, tastes, fictions and day- 
dreams, that the psychic realities within us come to light 
and expression. The essential information concerning 
people in Who's Who is to be found under the rubric 
Recreations. The superior importance of those activities 
is proclaimed by the vulgar evaluation of our commercial- 
ism in the very disparagement which it casts upon them ; 
for, being ' useless,' they are ends in themselves, possess 



CONSCIOUSNESS AS A SOCIAL PRODUCT 215 

an intrinsic worth for their own sakes, and are not, like 
the activities imposed by the panic of necessity, mere 
means to other ends. Artistic values, then, are the sig- 
nificant expressional and revelatory values. For in its 
essential significance, art is not what you go out to inspect 
in galleries and exhibitions ; it is not what supplies the 
theme of art-talk. That is but a narrow aspect of the 
thing which, psychologically, is as wide as life, which is 
part of every act and gesture. Your affective self, your 
inmost self, expresses itself in every act ; the very bodily 
features of a man, his facies, corporeal twitchings, and 
methods of ambulation, are stamped no less sharply than 
his motives and ideals, and for the same reason, with the 
values * high,' ' low,' ' noble,' ' ignoble,' and assign to 
him his place in the scale of evolution, of evaluation. 
In all he does his self is to a greater or less extent indelibly 
prefigured ; but most clearly in what he does ' for its 
own sake,' under no dictation but that of his impulses 
and instincts, likes and dislikes. That is why art is 
psychologically so important ; why carved stones and 
painted potsherds are humanly significant and interesting. 
Art, as the creative expression of those deeper values 
which no mere discursive, ratiocinative language, un- 
touched with emotion, can convey, is not essentially 
noble or beautiful. Its merit, as art, is conditioned by 
the skill of mastery over the means of expression, and by 
the truth, that is, the sincerity and spontaneity, of that 
expression. Qualities which are of necessity conflicting ; 
for conscious skill inevitably checks spontaneity : hence 
the charm of the unskilled 'primitive,' in whom technique 
has not killed the superior worth of spontaneity of ex- 
pression. But, however faithful or skilful the expression, 
the ultimate worth must needs lie in the mentality that 
is expressed. Art, in every sense, is the expression of 
man's place in the scale of life, of life's development, 
of his nobility or of his baseness. It is the expression 
of human sottishness no less than of human divinity. 



216 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

The horrors of our coloured-cover literature, of our 
pornographic music, of our genteel architecture, fall under 
the rubric Art. They are the art of our mentality, 
expressive, representative of it. Art can be that, or it 
can be Parthenons and Symphonies Pathetiques, according 
to the soul of which it is the expression. 

Hence the abiding medicinable redeeming virtue of all 
great art, of the expression of the soul of the past in periods 
of less disturbed health, of more settled world-outlook. 
Yet no expression of the past can serve truly for that 
of the present. The affective values and realities of life 
depend upon its cognitive outlook and must needs change 
with it. No art, no emotional expression, however great, 
whose cognitive values are no longer true, can nurture us 
truly, however much they may heal and cleanse us. To 
take up our abode there, is to fall out from the march of 
life, to withdraw from our age and its evolution, to 
become reactionaries. To us who stand as ' on a peak 
in Darien' before new horizons, no great art is possible, 
because we live amid values that are ' no more ' and values 
that are ' not yet.' In the convulsion of a world over- 
taken at last and overwhelmed by the Nemesis of the 
accumulated falsifications and mendacities of its heritage 
the true expression of our souls' realities, in the battle- 
glow of the hour, cannot be other than one of strife, of 
revolt. And strife, however noble its aim or beneficent 
its fruits, is always in itself ignoble, debasing. Strife calls 
for the defensive attitude, the operation of the instincts 
of self-preservation ; and those instincts, subsidiary and 
instrumental merely, as a necessary evil, to their opposites, 
to the extra-individual impersonal impulses, are the source 
of all vicious, base, ungenerous tendencies in life. The 
baseness, the sterility, of the present times, are the outcome 
of the hypertrophied self-defensive, self-preserving impulses, 
of the fear, the caution, the suspicion, the egoism which 
strife, conflict, engender. Our ' materialism,' our vulgarity, 
our incapacity for great art, are the effect of that. 



CHAPTER X 

THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 

i 

THE whole edifice of human conceptions has been built, 
ultimately, upon a single concept that of individuality. 
The philosopher, who in his analysis takes down the 
edifice stone by stone, comes at last upon the foundation- 
stone, proclaims his discovery ' Cogito, ergo sum ' as the 
bedrock of all certainty, and proceeds to rebuild upon 
the self -same foundation. Religion likewise rests upon 
the concept of the individual ' soul ' ; and the task of 
academic psychology is to protect it and its various 
aliases the ' Ego,' the ' experient,' ' the subject of 
psychology,' ' the transcendental unity of apperception,' 
against corrosive analysis. Human life, emotional, 
social, political life, proceed upon the same fundamental 
postulate, and are concerned with the ' individual,' with 
' individuals,' and with nothing else. The forces of Life 
and the realities of the Universe proceed on their courses 
utterly incognizant of ' the individual ' and without any 
consideration whatever for our fundamental concept ; to 
our profound distress and pained perplexity. 

There are gross, obvious grounds for the conception. 
You perceive yourself by reflection as a coherent thing 
persisting amid various settings, delimitated from an 
external world by a surface of skin. The domain of 
your feelings extends to that surface ; your fingers and 
your toes feel, your umbrella and your shoes do not. 
Outside the frontier of your skin lies an external universe 
which is not-you. A metaphysician comes along and 

217 



218 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

sorely perplexes you by pointing out that your skin- 
bound body and that external universe are, for ought you 
can show to the contrary, but parts of your own mind, 
that all you know of them are feelings and sensations 
of your mind, and nothing more. That staggering demon- 
stration, against which you are powerless to urge anything 
relevant, makes not the slightest difference. Let the 
solipsist have his way, let Sirius and Altai'r, the meta- 
physician and your umbrella, let your sensient skin-bag 
be ideas in that world of your mind. That world ' of 
your mind ' is still exactly the same world divided into 
two by the surface of your skin. 

You are not only coherent in space, you are also con- 
tinuous in time. That coherent system which is reading 
this page is, so far as respects continuity in time, the 
same system as the child who once laboriously spelled 
c-a-t, cat. 

Like every coherent system, you have your own peculiar 
characteristics. No two pebbles on the beach are exactly 
alike, and you differ in several ways from everybody else. 
But that does not constitute your ' Ego ' any more than 
the coherence, continuity, and discreet peculiarities of 
the pebble constitute a pebble-ego. 

If the views which have been expressed in the foregoing 
pages are correct, substantial support may be offered to 
the Ego-conception from the consideration that the whole 
diversity of feelings, thoughts, and actions are manifes- 
tations of a common original conative disposition which 
is the source of them all, and is the same throughout 
the sentient organism. But that is equally true of the 
pebble. The disposition of energy in the pebble causes 
it to react in a determinate way to determinate conditions. 
In the pebble those reactions are fixed and unmodifiable, 
whereas in the living organism the disposition which is 
manifested in its reactions is modified by every one of 
those reactions, so that it is always changing. If you 
call your conative disposition your Ego, that is then a 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 219 

much less permanent and stable thing than the pebble 
individuality. 

'But,' says the traditional psychologist, 'since you think, 
since you feel, since you do things, there must be a thinker, 
a feeler, a doer.' That is the grand argument of traditional 
psychology. Here we have the ' subject ' of psychology. 
Before considering it let us, if you please, first consider 
the pebble as a doer. 

Exactly the same thought -puzzle arises in connection 
with our pebble. 

All the reactions, the ' properties ' of the pebble have 
been resolved by the investigations of physical science 
into ' modes of motion.' Until quite lately one 'property ' 
remained which was not resolvable into motion, and which 
accordingly served as a measure of the quantity of matter. 
" Metaphysicians," said Clerk-Maxwell, '* have failed to 
perceive that the sole unalterable property of matter is 
mass. Even to this day those who are not familiar with 
the free motion of large masses, though they admit the 
truth of dynamical principles, yet feel no repugnance in 
accepting the theory known as Boscovitch's that sub- 
stances are composed of systems of points which are 
mere centres of forces. ... It is probable that many 
qualities of bodies might be explained on this supposition, 
but no arrangement of centres of force, however com- 
plicated, could account for the fact that a body has a 
certain measurable mass. No part of the mass can be 
due to the existence of the supposed centre of force." 
There is some piquancy in the circumstance that the 
answer to Clerk-Maxwell came not from any misguided 
metaphysician, but from Clerk-Maxwell's own successor 
at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, where the 
above words were written. He dispelled that last residual 
* property ' of matter and showed it to be an exponential 
function of motion. Motion of what ? Here we are 
brought back by our pebble to precisely the same situation 
as that which gave rise to our ' subject of psychology.' 



220 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

If there is motion, there must be something that moves ; 
to speak of motion without something moving is not 
grammatical. That, of course, is so as a matter of 
grammar. Our concept of motion embodied in our 
grammar refers to the motion of coherent systems ; but 
when we have resolved the whole of those coherent systems 
into their elements the concept of motion fails us : we 
are left with a verb without a subject. 

In demanding a subject for our verb we are asking for the 
'cause' of the motion. When we have got down to motion 
without anything being left to move, we have got beyond 
motion in the form of our experience to the ' cause ' of 
motion. And the ' cause ' here, as we have seen, is not 
at all the 'agent,' but that of which the sense presentation 
is the sign. In our motion without anything moving 
what we need is not a subject for our verb, but a thing of 
which motion is significant. That thing is what physicists 
call energy, a thing which, as we cannot conceive it or 
describe it by its causes, we are compelled to describe 
by its effects as that of which motion is significant. 
' Motion ' is for us the motion of coherent systems, of 
things formed, upon which we can act by altering that 
form. If that were anything more than a symbolic, 
schematic representation of our possible action, our 
grammatical logic would hold good to the end ; but when 
we have analysed down the system, and completely 
resolved its configuration, what is left is no longer 
* something that we can act upon,' something the form 
of which we can alter since there is no form left to be 
altered ; our symbolic concept of 'matter and motion,' 
and our grammatical logic are no longer applicable. We 
have passed out of the sphere of possible action, and the 
' motion without anything moving ' is no longer our 
symbolic representation of ' matter and motion,' but that 
for which the symbol stands, the ' cause of motion.' 

The ' doer,' the ' thinker,' stand in exactly the same 
predicament as the ' moving thing.' They are applicable 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 221 

concepts so long as we deal with the complex, coherent 
system as we have it. But resolve those systems into 
their components, and they both vanish. Just as the 
concept * motion ' is only applicable to a formed coherent 
system which we can act upon, so the concepts ' thinker,' 
' doer/ are only applicable to the formed and coherent 
systems which we call 'we.' The thinker of the thoughts 
is that coherent whole just as the object of the ' properties ' 
of the stone is the stone. Analyse the stone down, the 
object vanishes ; analyse the thinker down, the subject 
vanishes. There is a relation of subject and object in each 
of our cognitive acts sensations, concepts, thoughts ; but 
those cognitive acts are only possible to an elaborately 
formed system or disposition, and the subject is not 
otherwise discoverable than as that coherent and con- 
tinuous aggregate of which our sensations, concepts, 
thoughts, are manifestations. As soon as you analyse 
it, as you take the configuration to pieces, there is no 
subject left. 

So that for the grounds of our conception of the subject 
we are thrown back, after all, on those manifest and 
unsophisticated facts of coherence and continuity from 
which we started. Psycho-metaphysical analysis of the 
' cogito ' adds nothing to those manifest facts ; and if 
we would study further the nature of the cogitant, it is 
by turning our attention to the nature of that coherence 
and continuity that we must do so, and not by postulating 
grammatical subjects for our verbs. Here again the most 
satisfactory knowledge available to us is knowledge of 
origins ; ' scire ' is not ' per causas scire,' but ' per 
engines scire.' 

That coherent organism which we call our ' self ' is not 
something which at a given time became created out of 
nothing and entered the universe. It has developed from 
a cell, the product of the fusion of two germ-cells, that is, 
cells functionally unspecialized and undifferentiated, in 
which the conative dispositions of two other organisms 



222 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

were present. They accordingly reproduced the reactions 
of the parent organisms, beginning from the stage when 
those organisms were also functionally undifferentiated 
cells, and passing through all the steps of their differ- 
entiation in mutual relation to each other, to the building 
up of a differentiated aggregate of complex configuration, 
its development, growth, ageing, decay and death. In 
the course of that process the individual life the common 
conative dispositions of the new organism become modified, 
and those modifications of all its constituent cells are 
necessarily transmitted to another generation. That pro- 
cess is continuous, and has been repeated from the first 
beginnings of life. The individual life is only one step, 
one link, one phase, in the process. There is no break 
in it. There is as much continuity between the phases 
which we call generations of individual lives as between 
those which we call childhood, maturity, old age. The 
* thing/ the continuous and coherent system, is not the 
individual, but the entire chain of life. Life develops, 
the individual develops ; the one development is part of 
the other. The abstraction of the particular phase, 
' individual,' out of the continuous series is as purely 
arbitrary, a mere convenient abstraction, as if we were 
to choose a period of a day, or of a century, or of a thousand 
years, as our unit. The ' individual ' is an artificial unit. 
The circumstance that there is a break in cognitive 
consciousness between one generation and another, that 
your ' memory ' does not reach beyond the cycle of your 
individual life it does not even cover the whole of 
that and that cognition is not transmitted, is a very 
superficial and irrelevant consideration. A great deal 
besides is cognitively unrepresented in our consciousness ; 
the very forces that determine the operation of that 
consciousness are not cognitively represented in it. 

Those are, like our organism, the product of the 
whole chain of life. In precisely the same way as 
your reactions, your feelings, are related to one another, 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 223 

thus giving rise to your ' unity of apperception/ making 
your experience into a coherent whole, an ' individual ' 
experience, so are they also related to, and bound up 
with, the reactions, the feelings, of primordial protozoa, 
of organisms, in which life has developed those reactive 
tendencies, those feelings, those appetites, those sentiments, 
those modes of cognition which operate in you, and con- 
stitute your active psychism. Your mental attitude at 
this moment is as intimately related to the reactions of 
life in some primordial marine creature as they are to 
the impressions of your childhood and of your youth. 
The only line of demarcation between you and the 
continuity of Life is that of your cognitive experience. 
And to make that an essential and fundamental 
demarcation is a purely cognitive, intellectualistic inter- 
pretation. 

You live in a cognitive world of word-symbols, you 
think that is the foundation of your ergo sum \ But 
that thought-world, which illusively appears to con- 
stitute your psychic life is but its thin superficial vesture. 
Its folds are moulded by a throbbing form of appetences, 
of yearnings, which the world's contacts thrill into feelings. 
Your thought-world is but an appanage of that pulsing 
reality, the waves of which reach back to the distant 
horizons of a strange past and move towards unknown 
futures far beyond the phase of your ' individual ' life. 

That thought-world do you believe that to be ' you ' ? 
Has it not been manufactured for you in human workshops 
as have your clothes and the furniture of your house ? 
How much of that ' you ' would exist, I ask again, had 
you been marooned in a desert island and providentially 
enabled to live there at all ? Your concepts, your thoughts, 
your views and opinions, and firm beliefs, how each 
experience and event of life ' strikes you ' to trace those 
is not a matter of metaphysical, or even of biological, 
investigation, but merely of human history. Your con- 
cepts are arranged alphabetically in any dictionary. 



224 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

The mountain-mass of prejudices by means of which 
you judge, praise, condemn, and wax enthusiastic or 
indignant, have been handed to you by all sorts of queer- 
looking persons wearing antiquated clothes and also by 
the Fleet Street paper which you read this morning at 
breakfast. 

But you actually dare to ' think for yourself,' you 
have actually uprooted some of those prejudices from 
your mind, torn the stones from the walls of your prison ; 
you have asserted your ' individuality/ Brave deed ! After 
those stones had been thoroughly loosened for you by 
the imperceptible efforts of whole armies of thinkers ; 
after every grain of cement had been slowly corroded 
from around them, and the crowbars of generations had 
tugged at them, you have actually managed to lift the 
stone out and cast it from you, and you proudly exclaim, 
' Behold what / have done ! ' Your cogitative, cognitive 
life is, like all the other ingredients of your life, part of a 
process, which extends far, very far, beyond you, of which 
your thoughts supposing you to be the deepest and 
acutest thinker of your age are but one small constituent 
element. Imagine a secluded colonial settlement entirely 
cut off from human civilization, and composed of Shake- 
speares, Newtons, Darwins, with a few Nietzsches thrown 
in ; you might expect in vain plays, Principia, Theories 
of Evolution, or Transvaluations of all Values, to issue 
thence. 

That cogitative world, that world which constitutes 
the largest bulk of our focal consciousness, of our ' cogito,' 
is certainly of all aspects of our organism that which has 
least claim to any individuality. It is a social product ; 
the most superficial, extraneous, negociable, delusional, 
gullible portion of our ' selves.' It is the material upon 
which the public newspapers and every species of quack 
operates contentedly, ' moulding public opinion.' 

It is in spite of that malleable world of ' cogito,' of 
third-brain concepts and thoughts that, coming to the 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 225 

surface from the dark depths of unconsciousness and 
inarticulate feeling, and bursting through its artificial 
film in the form of honesties and realisms, our real 
sense of individuality, of personality, asserts itself. 

What is it exactly that you mean when you say that 
you propose to affirm, to assert your individuality ? You, 
in defiance of all conventionalities, ' taking-for-granted,' 
and sheep-in-the-gap compliances, assert and liberate the 
inmost impulses which truly actuate you. Surely not 
all ? The police won't let you. Quite apart from the 
police there are hosts of impulses within you which you 
do not at all desire to affirm and assert, which, on the 
contrary, you desire most carefully to conceal and stifle. 
What you mean when you say that you are going to 
assert yourself, your individuality, refers to a very carefully 
selected sample of your individuality. The impulses that 
desire to assert themselves do so not so much by virtue 
of their strength as by virtue of their worth. Suppose 
that you do succeed in ' imposing ' them how does that 
come about ? By virtue precisely of that worth, of that 
importance which impels you to impose them. That 
self-same quality of your ' individuality ' which urges you 
to impose it, persuades men to accept it. If that worth 
be an illusion, you certainly will not succeed in imposing 
your ' individuality ' in any degree at all. Is it then 
your ' individuality ' which seeks to impose itself ? Not 
that at all, but the higher grades and developments, the 
freer manifestations, of the conative forces that are in 
you. They impose themselves upon you, and, overflowing, 
seek to impose themselves upon others likewise. That, 
then, is the ' individuality ' which you deem worth asserting ; 
not at all the promiscuous impulses, weaknesses, basenesses 
and ignominies, and miscellaneous instincts that are in 
you, but those which your evaluating impulse, your sense 
of value and rank, your evolutionary sense, pronounces to 
be worth asserting. 

It is certainly not in the superficial world of our worded 

15 



226 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

consciousness, but in those impulses and conative disposi- 
tions which are the source of all our reactions, including 
that consciousness itself, that we must look, if anywhere, 
for the foundations of our individuality. 

But those dispositions and impulses, we have already 
sufficiently noted, have in their tendency, direction, and 
operation, nothing to do with ' us.' It is quite impossible 
to maintain that those forces which actuate us are directed 
towards promoting our well-being, our ' happiness.' If 
there is one clear mark of their general character, it is that 
they are utterly unconcerned with promoting the welfare 
of the individual. They absolutely disregard it. In no 
sense can they be described as individualistic ; on the 
contrary, they are characterized by the absolute ignoring 
of the individual and his interests. 

The higher we stand, the more self-development we 
achieve, the more we ' assert our individuality,' the less 
are our development and assertion individualistic. It is 
only on the lower planes, as stunted, warped, arrested, 
undeveloped, degenerate misbirths, that we can be 
' individualistic/ that our activities can remain within 
the sphere of self-preservation and search for ' happiness.' 
The human soul does not seek happiness ; only the shop- 
keeper soul does that. 

All the impulses that actuate us and which rise at all 
above the most primitive phase of nutrition or acquisition 
are extra-individualistic. Not only do they transcend 
individual interests, they are actually antagonistic to those 
interests. It is as though they used the individual as 
a mere tool, as a mere dupe ruthlessly employed in the 
service of interests that are not his, drawn to his own 
suffering and destruction by baits that make a fool of 
him. 

But that view, that mode of expression that we are 
' used as tools ' by extraneous forces, by ' Nature ' is 
not just or correct. For the simple reason that there is 
no ' we ' : there is nothing in us over and above the urging 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 227 

forces themselves. Those extra-individual, impersonal 
forces that move us are ' we.' Any conflict arises only 
between their more developed and their lower forms, 
between the higher manifestations of those impulses and 
the more imperfect ones of ' self-preservation ' which serve 
the purpose of maintaining the individual form of life. 

To the biologist, as is well known, the concept of 
' individuality ' has been the source of not a few dilemmas 
and difficulties. Among the Ccelenterates and Worms 
the same organic form may at one time lead a separate 
existence, be an individual, and at another be a part,, 
or organ of a larger aggregate. Among the Siphonophorae 
we have the curious spectacle of complete organisms, 
built on quite different plans of specialization, which would 
in ordinary circumstances be regarded as different species 
or different stages in the life-history of a species, existing 
in organic continuity as a bundle of disparate individuals. 
Some of the individuals (?) are polyps, others medusae, 
some are males, others females, some are palpatory 
(dactylozooids), others seize prey ; yet all are connected 
by a common stalk and all act in exact concert. Physalia, 
for instance, which is such a bundle of diversified ' indivi- 
duals ' which swims in the Mediterranean, accelerates or 
slows its swimming movements (or rather those of its 
medusae 'individuals'), changes its course, turns, dives and 
plunges, or rises to the surface exactly as if it were a 
single ' individual.' On the view expressed in the present 
work the puzzle is elucidated by the fact that where 
there is organic continuity there is equilibration of all 
conative tendencies of the organism, no matter how 
differentiated ; and therefore the anomalous bunch of 
diverse and disparate organisms, although it has no 
' nervous system,' acts precisely as if it were an orthodoxly 
organized ' individual,' and is in fact an individual. 
Biological individuality is merely a question of organic 
continuity, and any agglutinated assemblage of organized 
living matter can be an ' individual ' provided it can manage 



228 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

to support its life. Any hydroid polyp can be cut with a 
knife into as many ' individuals ' as you may choose, and 
each fragment will regenerate missing parts and restore 
itself to the form and organization of a complete polyp. 
That holds true of plants and of any organism where the 
specialization of function is not too great ; for the greater 
that specialization, the less, naturally, is the power of 
further differentiation, that is, of regeneration and repro- 
duction. Therefore to be capable of reproduction a cell 
must be functionally undifferentiated. The same, indeed, 
is strictly true of all organisms, including man. An 
undifferentiated detached cell spermatozoon or ovum 
leads a separate existence when disjoined from the parent 
individual and constitutes the starting-point of a new 
individual life. In a biological sense the concept ' in- 
dividual ' is of quite secondary significance a matter 
of subdivision and physical continuity. Individuality 
can be produced by means of scissors. The ' indivi- 
dual ' organism is merely a detached part of another 
organism. 

And, properly speaking, our own sense, feeling, and 
persuasion of our individuality rests upon that same 
crude accident of organic discontinuity ; it means that 
we have no feelings but those of our detached, delimitated 
organism, and that all the feelings of that quantity of living 
stuff are ' our ' feelings. Our ' individuality ' is a share, 
a measured portion, or slice of the thing, Life. But to 
regard that slice as something having a fundamental and 
substantive in-itselfness is plainly the merest inaccuracy. 
The mere circumstance of its acquired spacial discon- 
tinuity is wholly insignificant beside the fact of the actual 
continuity of its being with the whole of which it is a 
part. The substantive thing, the actual fact, is not the 
' individual/ but Life. It is only as a part of that con- 
tinuous whole that we, as individuals, exist. 

And not of Life only. We must believe those of us to 
whom the word- juggles and deus-ex-machina contrivances 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 229 

of a superadded ' creation ' are unworthy and unmeaning 
subterfuges that the stream of Life had its source 
in the inorganic world. That stream is, as a verifiable 
fact, a form, a configuration of the same forces ; it is 
physically and chemically analysable into the self-same 
constituents, which it is continually drawing upon and 
incorporating, and into which it continually reverts. The 
' energy ' which is the quantitative measure of its activities 
is that of the chemical disruption of its molecular systems, 
that of the combustion of the fuels it consumes, that, 
ultimately, of the sun. You are, quantitatively regarded, 
a measured portion of energy which can issue into the 
displacement of weights by your muscles, the composition 
of poetry, an act of heroism, or into as much heat as 
will boil a pot of water. The qualitative differences are 
manifestations of differences in form, in complexity of 
configuration. And we can follow in the diversities of 
configuration in the organic world the waxing tendencies 
towards that complexity of structural disposition con- 
tinuously approaching towards those conditions of self- 
renewal which render the repetition of reaction and its 
consequent modification possible, that adaptive modifi- 
cation which is the physical counterpart of feeling. 

That continuity is apprehensible ; no discontinuity, 
when we proceed beyond the surface of phenomena, is 
anywhere discernible. Our dissection of the world into 
separated and discreet ' objects ' is a purely utilitarian 
manipulation of our cognition ; an ' object ' is merely 
such for the convenience of operation of our acts and 
thoughts upon it ; it is an aspect of our activity. We 
regard the solar system, or the Earth, or a continent, 
or a mountain, or a stone on that mountain, or an atom 
in that stone, each as an ' object,' according to our need. 
Our distinctions and relations are the pattern of our uses 
which we stamp upon the face of unity. The forms of 
our spacial demarcations are entirely functional ; they have 
no structural reality. Our ' atom/ for instance, only exists 



230 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

by virtue of its effects upon every other atom in the 
universe, and is itself but the resultant in a given point 
of view, of all the forces in the universe. The atom and 
the universe are not separable entities ; our distinction 
between the one and the other is but an abstractional 
manipulation. 

The same holds good of our distinction between ' us ' 
and the universe as of all our other distinctions. It is 
merely contingent on the disposition of our activities, the 
particular mode of their operation in our consciousness ; 
it is functional. Those activities and that consciousness 
are just as much the resultant of the whole universe as 
the activities of the atom. The spatial differentiation 
between what is inside and what is outside our skin no 
longer holds in pure thought : the Little World of our 
elaborated feeling contains the whole of the Big World ; 
and the Macrocosm which contains the Microcosm is in 
turn contained within the Microcosm. Our distinctions, 
demarcations, and relations are here reduced to a juggle 
of inapplicable categories. 

Conception of the Whole, far less ' knowledge,' is not 
possible ; since all our concepts are of distinctions and 
comparisons, and the Whole cannot be compared with its 
parts or with anything else. 

A ' scientific conception of the universe ' is an absurdity 
which is no longer seriously to be broken on the wheel. 
A scheme in terms of ' matter and motion ' can never be 
anything else than a mathematical symbol representing 
our possible molar movements, and can no more ' represent ' 
the universe than an architect's plans can shelter us from 
the weather, or the chemical formula of a carbohydrate 
appease our hunger. If with an ideal completeness of 
knowledge, infinitely fuller than our present knowledge, 
we knew the structure and configuration of the whole 
universe from the remotest ether-wave to the anatomy of 
the last atom, we should be scarcely a step more advanced 
than we are now in our qualitative knowledge of the uni- 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 231 

verse. All that such a symbolic scheme would offer to 
our contemplation would be a chart of our possible action. 
Not to elaborate the obvious does anyone making any 
claim to common-sense imagine, for instance, that the 
universe is constructed in view of the range of our 
telescopic instruments ? If their optical field were the 
interior of a dewdrop on some gigantic petal, would our 
science be able to have any suspicion of it ? 

Our psychology is no more applicable to the universe 
than our dynamics. When we have said that the 
universe is a ' Universal Mind,' what, in fine, does that 
signify ? It is obvious that thought, sensation, concepts, 
all forms of cognitive processes whatsoever, which con- 
stitute the bulk of our own ' mind,' are wholly inattributable 
to a Universal Mind ; since there is, ex vi termini, nothing 
outside it to sense or cognize. Thoughts, cognitions, are 
in our psychology, merely means of giving effect to our 
impulses, and therefore quite inapplicable to a Universal 
Mind. Feeling, we have seen, is not attributable to 
inorganic reactions, since it is the concomitant of 
modification of reactions, and inorganic reactions can 
never be modified, for they can never be repeated by 
the same system. This, it is true, applies only to 
reactions taken singly and theoretically isolated from the 
rest of the universe ; and accordingly does not apply 
to the universe as a whole. But feeling is, like cognition, 
but a guide to external relations, and therefore meaning- 
less where there are none. 

If we have the most elementary understanding of what 
is meant in our psychology by ' purpose,' can we attach 
any meaning to the question, ' What is the purpose of 
the universe ? ' A purpose is with us but a means of 
steering amid the choice of ways ; it belongs, as much 
as our cognition and our thought, to the instruments and 
methods employed in the narrow conditions of our specific 
activity. It is the distinctive characteristic of all the 
reactions of the inorganic universe that no trace of ' purpose' 



282 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

is ever discoverable in any of them. But when we are 
led by the argument from complete absence of design 
in nature to call the universe ' purposeless ' our predicate 
is as meaningless and inapplicable as our demand for 
a ' purpose.' The tendency, the direction which every 
activity implies, wholly transcends our category of finality. 

The application of those terms to the universe does 
not assist us in assimilating it to our psychological 
experience. Neither from our physical nor from our 
psychological forms can we derive any concept of the 
universe. 

Far less than either are our ethical values applicable. 
These are the effect of circumstances and relations alto- 
gether peculiar to human development, and are therefore 
even more limited in their application than the forms of 
our experience. They cease to have any meaning beyond 
the sphere of those social activities and relations which 
are the medium of human evolution. If they were, as 
has been so persistently imagined, applicable to the 
universe we should be under the necessity of regarding 
it as the . manifestation of an infinitely malignant power. 
From the moment that we attempt to transfer those values 
to the universe we behold it as a nightmare of callous 
and refined cruelty. On its brow is written, as on that 
of the Spirit of Evil, that it ' never loved any soul.' J 
The beauty, grandeur, majesty of the aspects of the 
universe we hardly need a psychologist to tell us are 
not, like artistic values, expressions of qualities in the 
creative forces that produce them, but of our own moods 
and affections. That majestic cloud vision is ready to 
strike us dead ; those calm snow-peaks that exalt our 
spirit are ready to dash us to pieces and to bury 
us in their avalanches with as much indifference as 

1 Man sieht, dass er an nichts keinen Anteil nimmt, 
Es steht ihm an der Stirn geschrieben, 
Dass er nicht mag eine Seele lieben. 

Faust. 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 233 

they would the boulders of their moraines ; that siren 
isle-studded southern bay that thrills us with its in- 
toxicating loveliness is a death-trap which swallows up 
entire populations in its earthquakes and overwhelms 
whole cities under its streams of fire ; that sea is the 
emblem of treacherous inconceivable cruelty. Hear what 
a seaman, a great poet and lover of the sea, has to 
say of that aspect of Nature which may fairly be taken 
as representative of her grandeur and majestic power : 
" He man or people who, putting his trust in the 
friendship of the sea, neglects the strength and cunning of 
his right hand, is a fool ! As if it were too great, too 
mighty for common virtue, the ocean has no compassion, 
no faith, no law, no memory. Impenetrable and heartless, 
the sea has given nothing of itself to the suitors for its 
precarious favours. The sea the truth must be con- 
fessed has no generosity. The most amazing wonder of 
the deep is its unfathomable cruelty." He goes on to 
relate the rescue of the survivors from a water-logged 
ship one morning when " the peace of the enchanting 
forenoon was so profound, so untroubled that it seemed 
that every word pronounced loudly on deck would penetrate 
to the very heart of the infinite mystery born of the con- 
junction of water and sky. On that exquisite day of 
gently breathing peace and veiled sunshine perished my 
romantic love to what men's imagination had proclaimed 
the most august aspect of Nature. The cynical indifference 
of the sea to the merits of human suffering and courage 
revolted me. And I looked upon the true sea the sea 
that plays with men till their hearts are broken, and wears 
stout ships to death. To love it is not well. It knows 
no bond of plighted troth, no fidelity to misfortune, to 
long companionship, to long devotion." x 

But to ascribe cruelty, callousness, malignity, to the 
universe is, of course, a misconception as absurd as to 
ascribe to it ' love,' ' goodness,' ' compassion.' The one 
1 Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea. 



234 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

set of values is as inapplicable as is the other ; for 
they are values of our social-commerce morality, of our 
inter-individual morality, and have nothing to do with 
our relation to the universe or its relation to us. To apply 
those values to the universe leads us, like all absurdities 
of thought, into an antinomy : If the universe be 
evil, how come we, who are issued from it, to judge it 
to be evil ? If the universe were the handiwork of 
a malignant God, we should have to forgive God for 
Man's sake. 

The morality which is entirely absent from the universe 
is the individual-morality, the respect of persons, the love, 
kindness, compassion, justice, the morality which has 
reference to the relations between individuals. Of that 
the universe shows no trace or symptom ; is it to be 
expected that the adjustments called for by the con- 
tingencies arising out of the constitution of a very special 
and peculiar form of organism, the social organism, should 
be ' universal laws ' ? 

The inapplicability of that morality to the universe 
nowise excludes a ' morality ' from the universe. ' Indi- 
vidual-morality/ which is merely a contingent adaptation 
a means again is not at all our highest morality. Our 
evolutionary conscience, our intuition of values, is not 
greatly concerned with individual welfare ours or others' ; 
it is, in fact, as we have seen, extra-individualistic, im- 
personal. It refers to quite other values than those of 
' individual-morality ' ; it is as cruel and unscrupulous as 
the universe. And the universal order does, as a matter 
of fact, take account of, and very ruthlessly punishes, 
evolutionary crimes and delinquencies inadaptations, 
unveracities, unpardonable sins against the laws of the 
development and growth of Life. Though it does so in 
a quite extra-individual manner, punishing ' innocent ' 
and ' guilty ' alike, to the third and fourth generation, 
after the fashion of a Hebrew God. The ethics of the 
universe according to those higher and real values is 



THE ILLUSION OF INDIVIDUALITY 235 

quite another matter than the absurd application to it 
of the ethical values of our social adjustments. 

We are concerned with the individual, and the universe 
is not. We are concerned with individual values, with 
the individual's fate ; the universe absolutely ignores 
everything individual. That, properly speaking, is the 
root of our misunderstanding of the universe. And that 
' individuality ' upon which we base our strife-born, 
power-thought-originated conceptions, is an illusion. That 
which constitutes the actual worth of our ' individuality ' 
consists wholly in its extra-individual, impersonal mani- 
festations. That wherein it is individual-regarding con- 
stitutes the baseness and lower values of its operation. 
' Self-preservation ' is the baser instinct necessitated by 
the use of the individual life as an instrument of impersonal 
conations. It is a necessary evil, which in all vital and 
high development is subjugated and suppressed. We call 
that heroic which sets aside self-preservation. And, with 
amazing inconsistency, we our theological sentiments 
rather actually have the assurance to suggest that our 
' desire for immortality,' that is to say, our expanded 
instinct for self-preservation, is something noble ' Derives 
it not from what we have the likest God within the soul ? ' 
The desire for eternal self-preservation derives from what 
we have the likest a terror-stricken rabbit within the 
soul. The eternal self-preservation of our ' individuality ' 
would, when we come to consider it, be a somewhat 
appalling outlook. The eternal self-preservation of our 
grocer, our charwoman, and our friend the curate is 
obviously a prospect to make us weep. Most of the 
ingredients of our ' individuality ' are things of which the 
eternal self-preservation is not at all desirable, is, on 
the contrary, highly undesirable. 

As for the realities of our ' individuality,' the actual 
active principles and springs of them, their primnm mobile, 
those need no ' self-preservation ' : they are of their 
nature eternal. They do not pertain to our misconception 



236 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

of individuality, they are extra-individual, they are 
impersonal ; and our distinctions between ' individuals,' 
between self and not-self, are in the sphere of those 
realities devoid of meaning and application. 

To ' cognize ' the universe is not at all an imperative 
requisite. All that our cognition can avail us and that 
is no light service is to restrain us from belittling and 
desecrating it with the dishonesties of our inapplicable 
concepts. It is incomputably greater. 

What is needful to us is not to cognize the universe, 
but to know that we can trust it and to rejoice in 
it. That is the Tritmg, the faith that is needful. And 
is it not established by the fact that the forces that 
move it and those which actuate us are identical ? 



POSTSCRIPT 

FIRST AID TO CRITICS 

NINE hundred and ninety-nine criticisms out of a thousand 
on any philosophical evaluation of life proceed from what 
are currently, and erroneously, accounted two opposed moods, 
temperaments, or points of view the rationalistic and the 
sentimental. There must always be something false in every 
reply returned from either station to objections advanced 
from the other, as there must always be something false in 
the objection ; for the very assumption of the opposed positions 
is itself a failure to grasp the most elementary and simple 
relations of the psychological mechanism. It is a manifes- 
tation, not of ' temperaments,' but of psychological ignorance. 
Intellectual processes are ' only ' instruments of feeling, but 
every higher human sentiment has for its object a con- 
struction of the intellectual instrument. Hence is every 
exaltation of human feeling the whole worth of man made 
possible only by that instrument. Even religion rests upon 
' evidences,' or, as they were called in lower stages of rational 
development, ' signs.' Man would have no high sentiments 
if he had no intellect. To oppose the two is nonsense ; and 
the only conflict between them is that which I have referred 
to as the conflict of motives involved in all cognition. 

As every product of intellect is true or false, that is to say, 
produced in the undeflected discharge of its adaptive function 
or in the perversion of that function when corrupted to bear 
false and ' agreeable ' testimony, so sentiments are true or 
false according as their objects are legitimate or illegitimate 
products of the intellect. 

The vice of thought called intellectualism or rationalism 
does not consist in abuse of, or in undue reliance on, the 
instrument, but in the psychological blunder of mistaking 
the products of the intellect for an end-in-themselves as, 

237 



238 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

for instance, in the Platonic Theory of Ideas or the ' scientific ' 
schemes of the universe instead of recognizing those products 
for what they psychologically are, objects of sentiment. 

The radical, pernicious and fatal misuse of the instruments 
of cognition, on the other hand, is called mysticism. Mysticism 
consists in dishonestly filling in the blank cheque offered by 
a ' mystery.' There are no mysteries in the sense of blank 
cheques which we are at liberty to fill in. Every such opera- 
tion is an intellectual felony. A mystery is a problem that 
we have not solved, a question to which we have no answer. 
If that blank in our apprehension is filled in, it ceases to be 
a blank. But the cheque is invalid ; it is not a legitimate 
cognitive value, but a forgery. It is a lie, and will sooner 
or later inevitably get us into appalling trouble. 

When the sentimentalist (I am, of course, using the word 
with no depreciatory connotation) appeals to feeling against 
the rationalist, the latter retorts, ' Feeling is no instrument 
of cognition.' When the rationalist appeals to intellect 
against the sentimentalist, the latter retorts, ' Intellect is 
but an instrument ; Gefiihl ist alles.' Both are right in their 
retorts ; and both are wrong in the psychological confusion 
that constitutes their respective attitudes. The sentimentalist 
who of a product of thought says, ' I feel differently/ is as 
irrelevant as the mathematician who of a symphony asks, 
' What does it prove ? ' 

The conclusions contained in my last chapter, towards 
which those of all previous ones converge, will call forth from 
readers of the most diverse shades of opinion protests at 
varying heats of indignation. Those conclusions are a challenge 
to the most fundamental of all notions, to the foundation of 
all past and current thought and evaluations of life's values, 
the notion of individuality, the ' sum ' that was once regarded 
as the one solid rock of certainty amid a universe of uncer- 
tainties. Berkeley dissolved the ' external world ' of the 
thinker ; I call in question the existence of the thinker himself. 

The question raised has, like all others, an intellectual 
and a sentimental aspect ; but the latter must be kept severely 
distinct from the former. To approach the problem with 
the formula ' Individuality is a mystery ' is to suborn the 
competent court and from the outset to prejudice the issue. 

The ' mystery ' let us say rather the problem consists 
in the double-sided fact that there is an obvious delimitation 
and segregation constituting the individual, while the delimi- 



POSTSCRIPT 239 

tating frontiers are no less obviously encroached upon by 
the individual's history, and by every one of his ' relations ' 
actual or cognitive to his '-environment.' The old puzzle 
of ' Knowledge ' ' How can a thing be known that is not 
part of the knower ? ' is but one among the violations of 
the frontiers of individuality. I go much farther that 
delimitation and self-containedness melt utterly away under 
examination. The thinker who claims to point to the essential 
is entitled to the credit of not overlooking the obvious. To 
thrust the obvious upon him as an objection is the mode of 
procedure which was wont to elicit from Nietzsche ' Notes 
for donkeys.' Far from ignoring the obvious aspects of 
delimitation and segregation which constitute individuality 
(' in a sense '), I have, I believe, supplied, in the concep- 
tions advanced of organic and inorganic differences, of the 
mechanism of feeling, of organic as equivalent to psycho- 
logical continuity, if not an ' explanation,' at least a mode 
of conceiving the delimitation in terms of other knowledge 
which, after all, is the most that any ' explanation ' can 
do. But that segregation is, admittedly, only one aspect 
of the ' mystery ' of individuality, which were else no 
' mystery.' My challenge does not consist in denying that 
qualified and limited aspect, but in affirming that when erected 
into the essential aspect of individuality it is superficial and 
supremely misleading. But when that superficial and mis- 
leading aspect is further promoted to the status of absolute 
prototype of ' existence,' it is no longer a merely misleading 
error of proportion, but a rank and utter falsehood. There 
needs no probing of the concept of ' existence ' to condemn 
as fantastic its application to a phenomenon which lasts some 
threescore years and ten. That is not an existence, but an 
event ; it is not, it happens. Not only is that segregation 
but an ' aspect ' of individuality, qualified and contra- 
dicted by the ubiquitous encroachments of the ' external 
world ' ; the individual consists wholly of those ' encroaching ' 
forces, and, those abstracted, nothing is left. Historically 
and actually the individual is a locus of actuating impulses 
which are not limited in time or extension, and which operate 
without reference to the individual. 

It is with the intellectual product that I have been chiefly 
concerned, and not with the development of its sentimental 
consequences. I hold, perhaps unwisely, that a thinker 
should not do all the thinking for his reader ; if the latter is 
unable or too lazy to do his share and to develop the proffered 



240 PSYCHE'S LAMP 

indications, he is scarcely worth the trouble of fuller explicit- 
ness. Were I a pragmatist, I should preconise my conclusions 
on the strength of their affective fruits. The stupendous 
ascription of substantial existence to the event of individual 
segregation has been the root of all thought and all religions. 
What are the fruits ? Dead-sea fruits that have turned the 
glow of life to dust and ashes, universal mistrust of know- 
ledge, mistrust of all values, mistrust of Life, mistrust of the 
Universe, the blight of arid futility. It is scarcely an exaggera- 
tion to say that the concept of individuality has plunged the 
world into despair. The apprehension of the truth that 
individual differentiation is but a superficial and misleading 
appearance, while the essential fact of existence is, on the 
contrary, the continuity and impersonal unity of all the forces 
that represent the substance of being, is the solution of all the 
problems of sentiment. It invests the values, high, low, base, 
noble, good and evil, with a meaning. It abolishes the conflict 
of the individual with an autocratic or patriarchal universe. 
It robs the conflict of egoism of its polluting obsession. It 
abolishes the problem of evil ; for the evil against which all 
existence struggles is its own past, which, being dynamic, it 
must surpass. It abolishes death, for what does not exist 
cannot cease to exist, and what is universal cannot die. The 
infirmities, disabilities and imbecilities that flesh is heir to 
are the limitations which constitute the pretext for the illusion 
of individuality ; what we prize in individuality is that which 
transcends those limitations. What is personal in the indi- 
vidual is base, what is of value is impersonal. The perception 
of human impersonality is the sign by which man may yet 
win. It is the giver of that trust and strength, that power 
and confidence, that fortitude and peace, which thoughts and 
religions founded on the illusion of individuality have shown 
that they cannot give. 



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